PATNA: Vijay Mallya-promoted United Breweries (UB) is planning to set up a litchi processing plant at Patahi in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district to make wine, an official said Friday.
The company has taken 100 acres of litchi gardens on lease at Kanti and Motipur blocks in Muzaffarpur. It has plans to take another 1,000 acres from the farmers.
The processing plant would come up by the end of next year. “The UB group has already initiated move to purchase land to set up the plant,” a district administration official told.
About 70 per cent of litchis produced in India are grown in Muzaffarpur and neighbouring districts. The group was keen to use the sweet, pulpy and juicy fruit that grows in abundance in these areas to produce wine.
A company official, Rajeev Ranjan Ojha, said litchis would be sent to Bangalore directly from the gardens this year to produce wine. But from next year, the litchis would be processed locally.
The UB group and Litchika International have approached Muzaffarpur-based National Litchi Research Centre to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to use its technology for making litchi-flavoured wine, said K.K. Kumar, director of the centre.
Kumar said that scientists at the centre had developed litchi-flavoured wine by mixing pulpy extracts of the fruit with various types of spirits. They replicated the technology after conducting preliminary laboratory experiments in Thailand and Beijing.
The union agriculture ministry has approved the transfer of technology.
Last year the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) director, Mangala Ram, had impressed upon Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that the state could increase its revenue by using the ‘shahi litchi’ variety of the fruit, largely grown in Muzaffarpur, for making wine.
The state government then decided to set up plants in Muzaffarpur for this purpose.
Officials at the centre said wine from the fruit would help litchi farmers. “They would not be forced to sell litchis at throwaway prices and there will be less chance of damage due to poor processing and packaging facilities,” said one of them.