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Mayurbhanj’s red ant chutney

  • Published
    8th Jan, 2024
Context

The Similipal kai chutney made with red weaver ants by the tribal people of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district received the geographical identity tag.

The Red ant Chutney

  • The savoury chutney is popular in the region for its healing properties and also deemed important for nutritional security of the tribal people. 
  • The scientists of OUAT Bhubaneswar analysed the red weaver ants and found it contains valuable proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, amino acids, among others.
  • Consuming the species can help boost the immune system and prevent diseases. Many indigenous people from Mayurbhanj district venture into nearby forest to collect kai pimpudi(red weaver ant).
  • Around 500 tribal families have been eking out a living by collecting and selling these insects and a chutney made with them. 
  • Red weaver ants are collected from the nests along with their eggs and cleaned. After that, the chutney is prepared by mixing and grinding salt, ginger, garlic and chillies. The hot chutney has a pungent and sour taste and is appetising.

Medicinal Properties: Trials prepare a medicinal oil in which they dip the ants along with pure mustard oil. After a month, this concoction is used as a body oil for babies and to cure rheumatism, gout, ringworm and other diseases by the tribes.

  • The local people also consume this to stay fit and strong. They makes soups and other forms as well.
  • It is also consumed as a functional ingredient to cure various health problems like stomach ache, dysentery, cold and fever.
  • known to improve appetite as well as enhance eyesight naturally.

Nature’s architects

  • The red weaver ants form colonies with multiple nests in trees. Each nest is made of leaves stitched together with the silk produced by their larvae.
  • They mostly lodge in trees like mango, sal, jambu and jackfruit. The nests are strong enough against wind and impermeable to water.
  • Kai’s nests are usually elliptical in shape and range in size from single small leaf folded and bound onto itself to large nest consisting of many leaves and measure over half a metre in length.
  • The Kai families consist of three categories of members — workers, major workers and queens. Workers and major workers are mostly orange coloured.
  • Workers are 5-6 millimetres long, major workers are 8-10 mm long with strong legs and large mandibles and queens are 20-25 mm long and greenish brown coloured.
  • They feed on small insects and other invertebrates like beetles, flies and hymenopterans. They do not sting but have a painful bite into which they can secrete irritant chemicals from their abdomens.
  • Ecological functioning: They are also recognised as bio-control agents because they are aggressive and will prey on most arthropods entering their territory. They protect a variety of tropical crops against insect pests, acting as an alternative to chemical insecticides. 

Availability: The red weaver ants are indigenous to Mayurbhanj and are found in abundance in the jungles of every block area of the district, including in the Similipal Tiger Reserve.

Application for GI tag: The application was made in 2020 for registration in Class 30 under sub-section (1) of section 13 of Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

  • Geographical indications assign products to the place of its origin. It conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness for such goods.
  • Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of Intellectual Property Rights.
  • They are also covered under Articles 22-24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
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