Proposed tax on feni triggers hiccups of dissent in Goa

Proposed tax on feni triggers hiccups of dissent in Goa

Goa CM Pramod Sawant. (DH Photo)

Goa’s popular local alcoholic drink, feni, has triggered an agitation of sorts in the state cabinet, with a cabinet minister now joining the opposition chorus for reduction of the proposed tax levied on the indigenous brew in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s budget earlier this month. 

After opposition MLAs cried foul about the proposed tax, which could end up ‘pegging’ the price of the double-distilled cashew brew by nearly Rs. 100 per bottle, Goa’s Ports Minister and BJP MLA Michael Lobo on Friday said, that he would take up the issue with the Chief Minister. 

"I will speak with Hon CM @DrPramodPSawant to consider reducing tax on wines used for weddings or traditional functions and also on our local cashew feni,” Lobo tweeted. 

Synonymous with Goa, cashew feni is manufactured from the juice extracted from the cashew apple, which is first fermented and then doubled distilled in large traditional vats. Coconut feni on the other hand is produced from fermented toddy, tapped from coconut palm and then distilled in a process similar to its cashew cousin.

Both drinks are extremely popular in Goa and are a part of the tropical state’s socio-cultural practices, even cashew feni traders in Goa have managed to obtain the key Geographic Indication status for the fiery brew. Cashew feni has also been categorised as a state heritage spirit.  

In his budget speech earlier this month, Sawant had proposed a hike in the range of 20 per cent to 50 per cent on all types of liquor manufactured and sold in Goa. Justifying the excise fee hike, Sawant had said, that in recent years, several government duties including those imposed on revenue stamps, land transactions and even court fees had seen an increase. 

The Opposition, as well as liquor manufacturers, especially those who distill feni, are unhappy with the proposed tax, with Gurudutt Bhakta president of the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association claiming that the hike would kill the goose which lays the golden egg for the state government. 

“Feni is the common man’s drink in Goa. Indiscriminate increase in tax will affect the industry which contributes a lot to the state treasury,” Bhakta said. 

The opposition has also slammed the hike in excise levy, with former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai slamming Sawant for the proposal. 

"Whose idea was it to tax the heritage drink, which has GI? Did it come as a suggestion from the pre-budget online suggestions that the Govt sought? Or was it an original idea by the head of the Govt? #Goa needs to know!" Sardesai tweeted. 

Over four lakh bulk liters of cashew feni is distilled in Goa every year, according to state excise department statistics.  

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