Chief minister Nitish Kumar has vowed to put a Bihari dish on every Indian's plate. Now, his government wants to pin the "Brand Bihar" tag on the global food product map.
To start with, the state is planning to market rice, sugar, milk products and makhana (fox nut) produced in Bihar in some Asian nations.
In an attempt to mark its presence in the direct export market, the government has started to create a database of businessmen, whose products are supplied across the country and exported abroad.
Sources said that the state was eyeing Asian countries, especially the market in Myanmar (earlier Burma), to export such products.
"There are businessmen in Bihar whose products, especially related to food processing, are exported to other states and even countries like Bangladesh, UAE, Nepal and Canada. But Bihar lacks direct exporting infrastructure. So, the products manufactured here are sold to merchant exporters based in cities like Mumbai," an official in the industries department said.
"They export the items after proper packaging. For example, loose fox nuts are first sent to a Mumbai-based merchant exporter. The product is packed there before being shipped out, without any mention of Bihar. A consumer buying fox nuts in UAE or Canada doesn't have a clue that the product is manufactured in Bihar. The state government wants to change this and put 'Brand Bihar' on the export map," The database on Bihar-based exporters would help the government know about products being exported, the quantities and the people involved," the official added.
Principal secretary (industries) Naveen Verma told The Telegraph: "At a recent meeting with the joint secretary of the department of commerce at the Centre, it was decided that branding and packaging of our products. Work in this connection has begun and a database is being created."
The sources said the department of commerce allocates funds under a scheme called Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development and Exports to all states every year.
"The scheme is aimed at developing infrastructure related to exports from the state. Bihar has been getting the money but each time it is returned to the Centre with no work done. But this time, the sum, which is Rs 5 crore-plus, would be utilised. Though a lot needs to be done to establish Bihar as one of the major exporting states in India, the government is planning to set up a product development centre," another department official said.
Businessmen felt that the creation of such a centre was important.
"One of the major necessities in the case of exports is laboratory report on the product's purity and quality. The Centre looks at the quality and preservation of the product and searches for ways in which new products could be developed for export. The establishment of the centre, which will include a laboratory, would be the first positive step," said Satyajit Kumar, an entrepreneur and the vice-chairman of the eastern region of Confederation of Indian Industry.