M’laya buckwheat warms Japanese hearts
SHILLONG, Sep 9: The first day of the two-day event – Meghalaya Buckwheat Global Showcase, 2022 started off with a bang at the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) on Friday. The first-of-its-kind event to showcase the possibilities of buckwheat flour derived from the seeds of a variant of the Khasi herb Jarain, which is endemic to Meghalaya, had farmers from across the state coming together to celebrate this game-changing event.
Adding weight and grandeur to the event was a strong contingent of Japanese government officials led by Minister (Economic & Development) Hokugo Kyoko and the First Secretary (Food & Agriculture) Ikko Watanabe, experts on Japanese buckwheat -based culinary delights such as buckwheat noodles among others, officials from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and celebrity chefs from across the country and the Northeast.
Local entrepreneurs of all shades but mainly the young who are ready to experiment with the new crop were present to showcase their breads, varieties of buns and cookies with buckwheat as the base. People thronged the event out of curiosity to explore what buckwheat is and its possibilities. An initiative of the Meghalaya Farmers’ Commission the event has workshops on ‘The Japanese Buckwheat Experience’ by A Goto, Representative Director of General Incorporated Association of Farmers Management Inc, Hokkaido, Japan, entrepreneurship with buckwheat bioresources by Dr NK Chungroo, President, International Buckwheat Research Association, India.
The buckwheat cooking demo by the North East India Chef’s Association (NEICA) had a huge crowd following. The buckwheat dishes were highly delectable claim those who had a taste of the food.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma was supposed to inaugurate the momentous event but could not make it. Local MLA and Government Deputy Chief Whip Pyniaid Sing Syiem unveiled the Buckwheat Showcase 2022.
Addressing the wide ranging variety of audience, Syiem said he had come to learn that buckwheat is a super food with rich, fibrous proteins to combat lifestyle-induced diabetes. “The MDA Government is giving due attention to buckwheat. Since the past three years we have had several trials to work out the ideal time for planting the crop and are now in the process of perfecting the agronomic practise across state in various regions. Now we are confident of scaling up buckwheat production but we are gradually expanding the growing area because we also have to calibrate our production with market demands.”
Syiem also expressed delight at the presence of the Japanese team since Japan is the largest importer of buckwheat. “Their presence reaffirms a bright future for buckwheat not only in the country but globally as well,” adding that the Meghalaya government and Japan have a positive relation and several developmental activities such as road projects have been carried out with assistance from the Japanese government.
Syiem also addressed the farmers in the local language and encouraged them to work in close coordination with the Farmer’s Commission so that they can scale up their earnings.
KN Kumar, chairman of the Farmer’s Commission and the man behind the buckwheat revolution shared how he was first introduced to buckwheat by Dr Arunava Pattanayak who started his career with ICAR, Umiam, and who later took over as Director of ICAR- Vivekanand Parvatiya Krishi Anusandhan Sansthan (ICAR-VPKAS), Almora, Uttarakhand.
“It was Dr Pattanayak who first gave me 20 kg of buckwheat seeds which have now borne seeds. We are now growing buckwheat in 200 acres of farmland but plan to expand to 1000 acres once the demand grows.”
Stating that this is the first event of its kind in the country, Kumar said it is ironic that such a large and diverse country like India has not yet grown buckwheat and is at present only selling imported and processed buckwheat products.
Highlighting the huge health benefits of buckwheat, Kumar said, “The glycemic index of wheat is 75, that of rice is 73 and buckwheat is only 55 and it is gluten free. India is now the global diabetic capital where 28 % of urban Indians are already diabetic or vulnerable to diabetes while only 6% of rural Indians are diabetic. Wheat especially maida and rice are reasons for diabetes. It is time to switch over to buckwheat for a healthier life. Why expose ourselves to diabetes which cuts short our lives?”
Underlining the prospects of buckwheat, Kumar said that if the agricultural officers believe in the efficacy and prospects of buckwheat; the farmers too believe in it and the entrepreneurs step in then there’s no stopping this venture. He also highlighted the possibilities of producing honey from buckwheat flowers which he said is a great money spinner as it is a highly priced, premium product.
Japanese Minister (Economic & Development) Hokugo Kyoko said this was her first business trip out of Delhi since she joined.
Expressing her delight at the similarity between the climate and physical features of Meghalaya and Japan she said there would be a similarity in the vegetation too. “The buckwheat is an important part of Japanese culture and Japanese specialists are already collaborating by way of technology transfer. India and Japan have also launched a comprehensive initiative for sustainable economic development of the Northeastern region,” she said.
The enthusiasm with which the Japanese guests demonstrated their culinary expertise has won the hearts of the local people who thronged their stall to watch Goto making noodle soup out of buckwheat noodles even as he delightfully conversed with the guests.
The second day of the event would have the farmer’s sharing experiences and also a fruit wine pairing session with Gaurav Thapar a wine and spirits consultant and educator. Several stalls exhibited local wines made from Sohiong (a local berry), and wild apples (sohphoh in Khasi), mulberry and even amla (gooseberry). Exhibition of various food items made of buckwheat has given ideas to the visitors to shift their sights to buckwheat.