SHILLONG, Nov 11: Wine makers from across the state have expressed their dismay over the lack of governmental support towards their endeavours to take this activity to greater heights in Meghalaya while keeping in mind that it could provide a lot of employment opportunities to the unemployed besides revenue to the state government.
“Despite different departments increasing their participation in promoting fruit wines including in the last year’s cherry blossom festival, but it is an irony that the state government is not ready to legalise wine making,” said Michael Syiem at the sidelines of the 15th Shillong Wine Festival organized by the Forever Young here in the city on Saturday.
Syiem, who is spearheading the demand for legalizing wine making in the state under the banner of the Meghalaya Association of Wine Makers (MAWM) for the past 15 years, said the horticulture department is also going to organize the fruit wine festival in West Khasi Hills District.
It may be noted here that states like Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have gone ahead in legalizing wine making and are already reaping the benefits out of it. Mizoram, a dry state, is presently generating around Rs 1.5 crore annually from fruit wines.
Apart from Mizoram, Syiem said in fact another dry state, Manipur has also decided to soon legalize wine-making but Meghalaya despite being a wet state is lagging behind just because it lack clarity on its potential.
“There is completely lack of political will on the part of our state government. Instead crore of rupees is spend on festivals like the cherry blossom even though wine making for that matter has more potential than the cherry blossom festival,” he said.
Informing that the association had also met the minister in-charge of excise Zenith Sangma for his intervention, Syiem said they had told the minister that the matter requires only a cabinet decision to include wine making in the excise act.
According to him, this is because that the state has legalized manufacturing and exporting of beer.
He said wine making if legalized will not only give a boost to the horticulture sector but will contribute to the revenue generation of the state.
“Besides promoting tourism, wine making can also address the unemployment problem faced by the people of the state,” he said.
Syiem also said that Meghalaya is blessed with different variety of fruits throughout the year, but which used to be sold cheaply in the market, or left to rot where it falls.
To give value addition to these fruits, he informed that the Forever Young is organizing the Shillong Wine Festival annually to give a platform to the many home wine makers of the state.
Notwithstanding fruit wines are gaining popularity in the state, but the fact is that the art of wine making for local brewers will still remained just a ‘hobby’.
Meanwhile, the wine festival witnessed people thronging the stalls to taste and buy few bottles of wines made mostly out of local fruits.
Among the famous fruit wines on display are apricot, ginger, mulberry fruit, strawberry, passion fruit, blackberry, plum, banana, jackfruit, Roselle, sticky rice or even cashew apple.