The perils of climate change may well take a toll on Goa’s favourite alcoholic beverage, ‘cashew feni’.
An unprecedented drop in cashew production in Goa has in turn affected the production of cashew feni, with industry stakeholders indicating a drop by over 70-80 per cent. The short fall may not just result in a hike in prices of feni to the tune of 20-30 per cent, but has also fuelled fear of spurious versions of the traditional brew, which is one of the cheapest alcohols in Goa.
Last year, the state recorded nearly 27,366 tonnes of cashew production, but this year the production is expected to plummet to unprecedented levels.
Mac Vaz, founder president of the Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association, said that prices of feni may go up by 30 per cent.
“I am worried about the distillers and bottlers as feni production has dropped. As distilling feni is their bread and butter and they may face loss this year, I feel the government should help them,” he said.
“The second fear I have is that due to the shortage of feni, some may take to production of spurious flavoured feni, which may spoil the image and taste of feni. We will have to keep a check on any such activity because feni is our heritage,” he added.
Gurudatta Bhakta, the current President of the Association, said, “Definitely, prices will increase at the end point. last year, we used to purchase a 35-litre can of feni for Rs 3,800 to 4,000, which has now gone up to Rs 5,000.”
He added that there will be a 20 per cent price rise of feni.
Cashew distillery owner Kessey Saluzinho Aguir from South Goa said that due to the drop in cashew production, they are facing problems to meet the cashew feni demand.
“We could barely sustain the production of ‘urrak’ and now we have no source for production of feni,” he said.
‘Urrak’ is obtained from the single distillation process, while once double distilled, the drink is referred to as feni.
Urrak, which is a seasonal drink containing alcohol, is consumed with lime juice. However, feni is blended with spices like clove, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon to make another variation called ‘masala feni’.
Cashew feni is also the country’s first indigenous liquor to obtain the Geographical Indication tag, a process which was initiated by the local manufacturers of the brew in 2009.
Feni, a drink commonly and socially consumed by the local residents of the coastal state, was notified as the state heritage drink by the Goa government in 2016.
Anand Gaonkar from Collem in South Goa said that last year he produced 64-litre ‘urrak’ daily, which has dropped to 16-litre this year.
“Usually, I used to keep 48 litres of daily production to make feni. However, this year we don’t have enough quantity to distil feni. Hence there will be a shortage of feni this year,” he said.
Govind Girodkar from Shell-Melauli in North Goa is also facing a similar situation.
“I can hardly distil around 16-litre of feni. Cashew feni production has dropped at least by 80-90 per cent. We are facing loss this year, as we have already paid necessary fees to the government and have no business of even that amount, Girodkar said.