Mauritius hardsells heady rums for Indians

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The Indian diaspora in Mauritius is taking a shot on tipple-turf: It wants India to guzzle its rum!

With rum getting an image make over in the global market, and its consumption witnessing an upswing in recent times, Mauritius has begun to market harder the top-not rum it produces. The biggest potential market in India for Mauritian rum would be the armed forces stationed in Kashmir, and other cold weather combat zones of the country.

Mukeshwar Choonee, former culture minister of Mauritius, said: "We produce the best rums in the world. We are exporting rum to France and the United Kingdom, we have now entered the US market. We want to increase our exports and are looking at India."

Mauritius, which is a major source of foreign direct investment coming to India, has been waiting for talks to be revived with India on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) in order to put rum on the list of products that can be exported to India.

The island nation, which has swathes of sugarcane plantations, produces around 10 types of high quality rums. In fact, the Indian diaspora in Mauritius has been citing cultural roots to connect with India and thereby increase its share in the premium rum market. A majority of the Indian diaspora are descendants of Girmitiyas (indentured labour taken by British from India in the early 19th century).

Choonee added: "It is the Indianness that has made us strong in Mauritius. From being Girmitiyas earlier, we are now in key positions in government. If both the governments sign CECPA, Mauritian products will be added to the Indian market. Indian Army personnel could be potential bulk consumers for us, given the fact that they work in extreme cold conditions and rum would help them beat the chill. Our trade division has done the groundwork and we think it is high time the Indian government officially confirms it."

Choonee claims that Mauritian rum is a great hit among visiting Indian tourists. "A few Bollywood actors, who have come for film shootings to Mauritius, have fallen in love with the country's rum," he claimed.