The Himalayan Yak has got the food animal tag from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), under the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, top officials said on Saturday.
The FSSAI tagging, which was earned few days back following the proposal of the Dirang (Arunachal Pradesh) based National Research Centre on Yak (NRC-Y), is expected to prevent the decline in the population of the high-altitude bovine animal by involving it as part of the conventional milk and meat industry.
Usually, highly-nutritious Yak milk and meat are not part of the conventional dairy and meat industry, and their sale is limited to local consumers.
NRC-Y Director Mihir Sarkar said that the proposal for FSSAI tagging was submitted to the Central authority last year.
"We made a detailed presentation about the benefits of Yak milk and meat and the importance of rearing the animal before the Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Ministry.
"The FSSAI issued the tagging after a recommendation from the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying," he told IANS over phone.
Domesticated Yak is found throughout the Himalayan region -- Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, North Bengal, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir -- while wild Yak is found in Tibet.
Sarkar said that Yak plays a multidimensional socio-economic and cultural role for the pastoral nomads who rear it largely for maintaining their nutritional support and livelihood.
According to the NRC-Y, the Yak population in the country has been declining at an alarming rate.
According to the 2019 Census, India had some 58,000 Yaks, marking a drop of about 25 per cent from the last livestock Census conducted in 2012.
According to Sarkar and other experts, the decline in Yak population could be due to less remuneration from the bovid, unwillingness of the younger generation to continue with nomadic Yak rearing, besides the dwindling habitats and climate change.
NRC-Y scientists feel that the commercialisation of Yak milk and meat products would boost entrepreneurship.
However, they said that the Yak has to be included as a food-producing (milk and meat) animal in the Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011.
Due to the novel initiative taken by NRC-Y last year, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) responded positively to help the Yak farmers.
Responding to the proposal of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), banks have come forward, showing their willingness to provide loans to Yak farmers as well as others keen to earn a livelihood through the farming of this bovine species.
Sarkar said that the credit proposal and related plans approved by NABARD were found to be feasible for credit support by the banks, and they have been included in the potential linked credit plans.
Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir have the largest population of around 26,000 Yaks, followed by around 24,000 in Arunachal Pradesh, mostly in Tawang and West Kameng districts, 5,000 in Sikkim, 2,000 in Himachal Pradesh and around 1,000 in North Bengal and Uttarakhand.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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