|FOOD CHAIN No. 09 - July 1993 (ITDG, 1993, 16 p.)|
Mishti are traditional sweetmeats made from milk solids & made and consumed in large quantities all over West Benegal and Bangladesh. They are an essential part of Bengali culture and heritage, used in some religious ceremonies and all private and official functions.
There are some 60,000 mishti shops in West Bengal alone and several mishti chain stores flourishing in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, and other large towns. In the rural areas of Bangladesh small mishti producers are mainly from the Hindu Ghosh and Modak communities who are traditionally involved with milk and milk products. Few of these producers have a permanent shop. In towns, many producers sell their products to tea stalls and restaurants. It is difficult to estimate the turnover as much of the mishti making is in the informal sector.
Bangladesh is becoming increasingly dependent on imported milk; in 1977-78, Tk110 million (nearly £2 million) was spent on importing milk and milk products. This figure rose to Tk4140 million (nearly £67 million) in 1989-90 and the milk import bill is still rising. Liquid milk consumption is, however, very low - only about 14g per person daily. It is the huge quantities of milk in the mishti making sector that is blamed for the increase in imports and so the Government is considering imposing some restrictions on making mishti In the draft National Livestock Policy, for example, it has already proposed to introduce a 'sweetmeat-less day' at least once a week in large towns.
This article describes the importance of mishti in Bangladeshi culture and how to make mishti alla perhaps more importantly, soy mishti It is estimated that 25 per cent of the substantial imports of milk powder is used in the production of mishti; if manufacturers could be persuaded to adopt this process there are potentially substantial import savings and the benefit of the savings ending up in the local economy - soy bean farmers and mishti makers.
Attempts to reduce this dependence on imported products have been made by development agencies involved in introducing soy- based food products into the country's existing dietary patterns. But the possibility of using soy milk in mishti production was not seriously considered, probably because special treatment of the soy milk is needed to make it suitable for use in the manufacturing process.
GONO UNNAYAN PROCHESTA
Gono Unnayan Prochesta (GUP) is one such development agency which has worked on the introduction of soybeans for more than a decade, concentrating on the development and diffusion of recipes for domestic utilisation of soybeans.
Their efforts to develop soy mishti were disappointing for many years because of problems with the product's colour, flavour and texture. But in 1988, the Food Processing programme within GUP launched a project with specific objectives to reduce the amount of milk used in making sweetmeats by replacing it with soy products, thereby reducing the country's dependence on imported milk powder and building up food processing opportunities for the poor of Bangladesh. It aimed to make available a low cost alternative raw material for the mishti industry, without reducing the quality of the product, and thereby releasing valuable milk supplies for consumption by vulnerable groups.
DEVELOPMENT OF SOY MISHTI
Experienced sweetmeat makers were involved to assist the project's nutritionist in the development of soy mishti. Through their efforts a process has been developed to produce mishti using 70 per cent soy channa in dark coloured mishtis like kalajam and 50 per cent soy channa in white mishtis like rossogolla (channa is the name given to the coagulated milk solids used as an ingredient in mishti).
The quality of the product has been evaluated by experienced sweetmeat makers and they ranked it above commercially available mishti prepared from skimmed milk powder, which is the most widely used adulterant used in place of fresh milk channa.
A market test of soy mishti has been carried out by selling more than Tk10,000 worth of soy mishti through grocers' shops and lea stalls. A group of women have been trained to make soy channa and soy mishti independently. They are now in commercial production.
The main problem identified was the mishti shop owners' reluctance to use soy channa in making mishti because milk was cheap in Rajair, (the working area of GUP) which at Tk8-12 per kg in 1990, was 50-100 per cent cheaper than in the city market Also the mishti business was very competitive, so nobody was willing to take the risk of selling soy mishti, fearing it would hamper their goodwill. All these production shops use defatted channa and skimmed milk powder as adulterants in making mishti without informing the consumer, so it is expected that they will also use soy channa, which is better than defatted channa, provided soy mishti becomes better known in the market. To overcome these problems the GUP Food Processing Project planned to sell soy mishti in the local market. Unfortunately from early 1991, the work was held up due to lack of funds and the departure of key trained staff. Pilot production of soy mishti and soy channa however still continues alongside test marketing of fried soy mishti, using only soy channa.