Meghalaya to boost fruit wine industry: CM Conrad

Guwahati: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Thursday said that the state government has charted out a plan to promote fruit wine industry in the state.

Sangma said that a robust policy has been put in place to promote a thriving ecosystem that links tourism, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and job creation through the promotion of local fruit winemakers.

Speaking at the launch of North East Wine Incubation Centre at Mawdiangdiang in Shillong, the Chief Minister recalled moments when he encountered a homemade pineapple wine with a simple, handcrafted label on a beer bottle, which stemmed the idea to devise strategy to promote professional wine making and packaging.  

“Despite the unimpressive packaging, the wine inside was exceptional. This experience, combined with discussions and observations, led to the realization that there is immense potential in the fruit wine industry in Meghalaya,” the Chief Minister said.

“This entire activity that we are trying to do, it links tourism, agriculture, and job creation. It has the potential to unlock a vast capacity that is lying dormant,” he added.

On comprehensive framework to promote the industry, the Chief Minister informed on the importance of establishing a proper system, policy, and support structure for local fruit winemakers. He observed that the initiative is not only aimed at boosting the wine industry but also at benefiting farmers, tourists, and entrepreneurs in the state.

“I am in public life to make a positive difference in even a single individual’s life. That is my driving force,” he said, while adding, “The activity that we are trying to do here is going to make a huge positive difference in people’s lives.”

Sangma envisioned to make Meghalaya the fruit wine capital of the country. He expressed confidence in achieving this goal with the collaboration of all stakeholders.

He hoped that the wine incubation centre will provide a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to test and utilize machinery, encouraging innovation and economic growth through wine making.

Addressing concerns about licensing and accessibility for winemakers, he assured the public that the licensing fees would remain nominal. He also informed that the government is in the process of streamlining the registration process to facilitate ease of access for local winemakers.

The inauguration of the wine incubation centre, which is first of its kind in the entire North East, was attended by Agriculture Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh and Excise Minister Kyrmen Shylla.

In September 2020, the Government of Meghalaya amended the Meghalaya Excise Rules (Assam Excise Rules 1945) through a notification dated 29th September 2020 (No. ERTS (E)7/2020/52), to legalize the production and sale of Homemade Wines under license to provide a legal avenue for local Winemakers to carry out winemaking as a commercial venture.

This amendment was adopted with the intent of not only creating an opportunity for wine tourism but also to provide an impetus to the horticulture sector to undertake cultivation and production of indigenous fruits on a commercial scale. This move has created new opportunities for wine makers, entrepreneurs, and farmers in the state.

The First Batch of Wine Appreciation & Wine Making Certification Courses were held in June to July this year for 68 trainees and for the second batch of 25 trainees in August. A total of 93 winemakers have been trained so far with 16 of them currently undergoing internship in the winery of Hill Zill wines, Bordi, Maharashtra.

The courses offered guided tastings, educational workshops, and interactive sessions with sommeliers and winemakers making it an immersive and enriching experience for wine enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and industry professionals looking to enhance their knowledge, indulge their senses, and connect with fellow wine enthusiasts.

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The Wine Appreciation & Wine Making Certification Courses have been organized by MFEC with the aim of encouraging local winemakers to transition from the traditional art of winemaking to modern winemaking techniques to ensure that the quality of wine produced in the state matches nationally and internationally recognized wine standards.

Having been actively involved in the formulation of the current policy, the Meghalaya Farmers’ (Empowerment) Commission (MFEC) has taken the responsibility to provide an impetus not only for winemakers but also for consumers and businesses to actively undertake the promotion and consumption of local fruit wines and meads in the country to ensure that Meghalaya is at the forefront of fruit wine and mead production and refinement throughout the northeast, the release added.

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