Saugat Biswas with the artists from Ladakh inside the Indian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Sajjad Ahmad, Gulf Today
Highlighting the emergence of Ladakh as the key producer of Pashmina, a valuable wool, and apricot, young entrepreneurs from the region came together for a session at the India Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai.
Organised by the Administration of Ladakh and FICCI, the session titled “Pashmina, Apricot & Zero Waste Food Processing Intervention” discussed the development and available opportunities in the region for joint collaborations with the GCC countries.
Emphasising the importance of agriculture in the region, the speakers talked about the recent practices that have enabled Ladakh to produce Pashmina and apricots efficiently despite the cold arid climate, altitude, and rugged terrain across the region.
Saugat Biswas, IAS, Divisional Commissioner/Secretary, Industries and Commerce- Ladakh, said, “Apricot is the main product of Ladakh with six different varieties. We have recently started the exports of fresh apricots from Ladakh to the UAE. We have plans in the pipeline to expand this export to other GCC nations. Ladakh region has huge food processing potential and we are in touch with Indian premier institutions to facilitate the local entrepreneurs.”
About the growth of Pashmina industry, Biswas said,” The government is putting a lot of efforts and helping local business to increase production capacities. We are branding Ladakh’s Pashmina by issuing certification. We are setting up a bank in the area, introducing new technologies and organising various training programmes to help the local economy.”
He concluded, “To overcome the logistic challenges, the government is planing to build new tunnels and expand more road connectivity in the next few years.”
Kachoo Mehboob Ali Khan; IRS, Secretary, Tourism – Ladakh said that the region is aggressively promoting its agricultural & horticultural produces and is regularly engaging with the industry and the private sector for technology sharing to improve the value chain and food processing systems.
Khan said that the Expo 2020 Dubai is a good platform to engage with the best in the world for knowledge sharing, product development and collaborations to improve the product life cycle of Ladakhi produces.
“Tourism continues to be a priority sector for Ladakh and we look to engage with the European Union and other countries with similar landscape to explore possibilities in high altitude adventure tourism and winter sports,” he added.
Speaking about Pashmina, Nawang Phuntsog, CEO, Nomadic Woollen Mills said, “Pashmina is ethically harvested and sourced in Ladakh, without any kind of industrialisation. Changthang, Ladakh – is home to the world’s finest Pashmina and the region is on a mission to preserve and leverage its cultural heritage and establish its identity as the source of the ‘golden fibre’. We ensure that fair trade practices are being followed and everyone involved in the process gets their due share. For each step, we utilize eco-friendly and green technologies. The capacity to process the wool reared is just 5% on an annual basis, thereby leaving a huge lucrative potential for the entrepreneurs to enter the sector and revive the traditional handloom of Ladakh.”
Highlighting the challenges in Pashmina business, Zakir Hussain Zaidi, Managing Director, Changthangi Lena said, “Ladakh produces finest Cashmere in the world that is between 10-15 microns but the problem of fake Pashmina has been an alarming issue for the locals and nomads in Ladakh as they are not getting their due share in the process. The Administration of Union Territory of Ladakh is also supporting with the Geographical Indication (G.I.) certification, which will help Ladakh establish the authenticity of the finest fabric from Changthang i.e. Pashmina.”
“Our goal is to work towards the development of the community and improve the livelihoods of the breeders. We are looking for potential opportunities in UAE – buyers and multi-stores with whom we can tie-up,” he added.
Speaking about apricot which has recently been identified as the primary crop for Kargil under the ‘One District One Product’ programme of the Government of India, Dr Gouri Dutt Head, Market Insights & Community Engagement, Krishak Agritech said, “Ladakh is India’s largest producer of apricot but interestingly the fruit had never been exported out of the UT except for this year. We introduced the zero-waste harvesting model in the region which has resulted in reducing the wastage of apricots exponentially. With these interventions, we have been able to create history for Ladakh as we exported apricots to cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi. We also sold 150 Kgs of Apricots in Dubai in 2 hours generating 600 man-days of employment.”
“Exporting apricots is a strategic priority for Ladakh to contribute to the economy of the Union Territory in its full potential. With future innovations and interventions, we plan to set up zero-waste harvesting & food processing unit before the next season of apricot. We seek to learn and build partnerships to better the value chain in fresh and processed apricot based products, establishing crop improvement techniques, strong logistics linkages and high-end food processing units,” she added.
In line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to support the hosting of Expo 2020, the Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination, ZHO, has supported the promotion of this international event through two initiatives.
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