State pitches buckwheat, turmeric export to Japan

SHILLONG, Nov 24: Japanese ambassador to India, Satoshi Suzuki and team are in Meghalaya for the Cherry Blossom Festival scheduled to begin on Thursday. Ambassador Suzuki, accompanied by his wife, was at the Asian Confluence to interact with state government officials, Secretary, North Eastern Council, K Moses Chalai, NEHU Vice Chancellor, Prof PS Shukla and civil society members.
Addressing the group at Asian Confluence, Ambassdor Suzuki said he was happy to be in Meghalaya for the Cherry Blossom Festival since these flowers called Sakura in Japan signify memorable events such as meeting new friends, saying farewell to someone who leaves for a new journey; when someone attends a new school or some such momentous occasion.
“The Cherry Blossoms are a good way to connect with Japan and if meaningfully promoted will attract a lot of tourists from Japan,” Ambassador Suzuki observed adding that in his capacity he has tried to keep the Act East Forum a platform for promoting the Act East Policy alive and kicking by holding regular meetings with governments and other stakeholders of the Northeastern states to help promote social and economic development of the region. The Ambassador listed out the meetings he had been having with governments of the Northeastern states.
In mid-February this year Ambassador Suzuki said he had visted Assam with Union Minister for External Affairs, S Jaishankar to assess what collaborations can be worked out with Assam and other Northeastern states. Stating that the Northeastern states all have immense potentials, Suzuki said, without assistance, ideas and support from outside agencies, the potentials will not be unleashed.
In June this year Japan in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had assisted Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland with oxygen generation plants to enable COVID-19 patients to breathe easy.
BK Sohliya, Executive Adviser, Meghalaya Farmers’ Empowerment Commission made a presentation on the buckwheat plantation and harvesting. Stating that buckwheat has 20 times higher anti-oxidants, Sohliya said Meghalaya is by default an organic state as it did not get into the Green Revolution bandwagon. Since Japan imports buckwheat from other countries, Sohliya said it could perhaps import the grain from Meghalaya. The first harvest in December this year will be about 1000 MT.
Adding to the presentation KN Kumar, Chairperson, Meghalaya Farmers’ Empowerment Commission said the only problem at the moment is with dehulling the buckwheat and since Japan has perfected the process perhaps it could transfers the technology to Meghalaya. To this Ambassador Suzuki said that buckwheat is best exported without dehulling as its shelf life is shortened after it is processed into flour.
K Moses Chalai, Secretary, NEC and his colleague G Panmei said the region is looking to cooperate with Japan in terms of exporting high value, low volume products like turmeric, stevia, papaya extracts (papain) and the bhoot jolokia (the hottest chilly) for sports medicine. They proposed for technology transfer for better processing of micro-food products.
Former Ambassador RV Warjri, asked Suzuki if there is a possibility for greater corporate presence of Japan in Meghalaya and other Northeastern states to which Suzuki said that young Japanese entrepreneurs were already assisting Assam with e-rickshaws so that kind of cooperation is possible.
Representatives of NEHU pitched for student exchange programmes between the University and Japanese students. NEHU VC, Shukla said there is already a centre for learning Japanese, Thai and Korean languages and sought further assistance from Japan to enhance the students’ exchange programme. Earlier Prof Panda of Economics Department, NEHU said that two batches of NEHU students had visited Japan and already benefitting from the exchange programme.
Chairman of the Meghalaya Farmers’ Empowerment Commission, KN Kumar gifted a packet of the first harvested buckwheat and Lakadong turmeric from Meghalaya to Ambassador Suzuki and his wife.

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