Melghat, a backward region in Vidarbha better known for its malnutrition deaths, may soon be exporting food products to Japanese restaurant. Sitar, a chain of restaurants serving Indian food in Japan, has shown interest in importing 'chaklis' prepared by tribal women from this region.
These women are part of State Bank of India-financed self help group. Around 120 such groups from Dharni, near Pulgaon tehsil of Melghat region, will supply 'chakli', a Maharashtrian snack, to Japanese restaurant.
The restaurant already imports honey from these SHGs. Its director Dasdo Masdo met the women during a recent visit and apparently liked the chaklis served by the SHG members.
Pratibha Masoorkar of Pragati Bahuddeshiya Sanstha, a non-governmental organisation, said over 1,000 tribal women are associated with the SHGs. SBI has given credit to 100 such SHGs.
The groups were started under UNDP projects with the help of NABARD and have recently been linked with the State Bank of India.
In Melghat, Masdo was served various local delicacies but the 'chakli' and 'chiwda' won his heart.
He assured the SHGs of returning in February 2006 to finalise things and promised to place order of at least 10 tonne.
However, Masoorkar said that Masdo wants the groups to prepare food products in a more hygienic manner and that they are working on it. The SHGs entered the exports two years ago by exporting honey to Japan and Thailand. They also supply honey to Khadi Village Industries Commission for sale in its various outlets.
They got the export orders through Pune-based Centre for Bee Research and Training Institute, which trained the women in bee keeping, informed Masoorkar.
If the 'Sitar' deal materialises, 'chakli' would be available in Japan and tribal women from Melghat will get an economic boost.