World Bank to fund marketing of Bihar’s Shahi litchis

Patna, June 5 (IANS) The World Bank will provide funds for marketing of Bihar’s famous Shahi (royal) litchis in the national and international markets, official said Saturday.

‘The World Bank has proposed that litchis be sold at railway stations, airport lounges, malls in metropolitan cities across India as well as in overseas market,’ said Ram Prabodh Thakur, an official associated with Agriculture Technology Management Authority (ATMA), a world Bank funded agency, told IANS.

India is the world’s second largest litchi producer. Bihar accounts for more than 74 per cent of the total production in the country. The Shahi litchis are largely grown in the state’s Muzaffarpur and adjoining districts.

A 2006 World Bank report said increase in litchi cultivation in the last decade had been impressive, particularly in Muzaffarpur. ‘Significantly, this change seems to have occurred almost entirely due to market forces, with no concerted effort or planning by either the government or any organised institutional mechanism,’ said the report.

Thakur said some steps had been initiated to raise production and marketing of lichis. The state agiculture department has identified 12,000 hectares of high-yield litchi producing areas in north Bihar.

The department has provided facility to install pre-cooling equipment and refrigerators in trains going from Muzaffarpur to the four metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, and to the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Officials said the department has also tied up with a number of exporters to supply the litchis to global markets.

Vijay Mallya-promoted United Breweries (UB) is setting up a litchi processing plant at Patahi in Muzaffarpur district to make wine. The company has taken 100 acres of litchi gardens on lease at Kanti and Motipur blocks. It has plans to take another 1,000 acres from the farmers.

The processing plant would come up by the end of next year.

Last year the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) director, Mangala Ram, had told Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that the state could use the shahi litchis to make wine and increase its revenue.

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