The Goa government’s Feni Policy 2021 has paved the way to take the state’s ‘heritage drink’ forward, the Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association (GCFDBA) said Thursday, noting that it has the potential to “save Goa”, but its challenge lies in changing perceptions about the drink classified as country liquor.
GCFDBA president Gurudatta Bhakta said, “Just like Mexico has tequila, Russia has vodka, Japan has sake, we want our feni to be available all over the country and abroad.”
Feni distilleries are usually family-run affairs, and the history of the drink goes back to at least 1585. Hansel Vaz, the secretary of the GCFDBA, said Goans and the state government should take pride in feni. “To get more cashews, we need to plant more trees. I always say, by drinking feni you will save Goa. When we plant more cashew trees, we will have more green hills. The beauty of cashew is that you don’t need fertile land,” he said.
However, Marc Vaz, the founder member of the GCFDBA noted that Indians tend to look down on country liquor. “We need to believe in our own assets… Tequila is a country liquor and they (Mexico) proudly flaunt it. Only in India we look down upon it…,” he said. “Feni is all about swadeshi, it’s all about atmanirbhar, it’s all about Make in India. When my feni goes to America, it’s my way of saying Jai Hind.”
Goa’s feni policy, notified in the official gazette on August 19, 2019, lays down the standards for the production, techniques, quality and hygiene for making of feni and lists local terminology like Bhaticar (distiller), Pantlo (cane basket to collect cashew fruit)and Pinjrem (a metal cage like unit to extract juices).
The GCFDBA said that while the GI tag for feni requires the use of the cashew apples grown in Goa, in future, an amendment may be considered to allow the use of the fruit from states that have a higher growth in order to augment the supply of cashew for making the spirit.
According to the association, there are 26 types of feni, and though only the cashew feni has been GI-tagged, the feni policy also covers coconut feni.