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QPM roti wins vote of confidence in Bihar, India

The government of Bihar, a state in eastern India, celebrated its 99th anniversary of independence last month, March 2011. To celebrate, the Bihar government invited CIMMYT, Rajendra Agricultural University (RAU), Bihar and the Directorate of Maize Research, New Delhi to perform a live demonstration of a tortilla-making machine that uses quality protein maize (QPM) grains. The demonstration took place during a 3-day exhibition during 22-24 March in Patna, Bihar, with the goal of popularizing QPM roti among the masses. Roti, common to South Asia, is a regional bread made from stone-ground wholemeal flour.

Raj Kumar, cropping system agronomist, and Raj Gupta, South Asia Coordinator, represented CIMMYT at the Bihar Day celebrations while Head of RAU’s Maize Program Mrityunjya Kumar coordinated the efforts on QPM roti making. Agriculture production commissioner AK Sinha provided space for the installation of the tortilla machine at Gandhi Grounds in Patna, Bihar, and also arranged the logistics for making maize breads and serving them to visitors during the Bihar Day celebrations. Sale of the QPM makka roti by women self-help group volunteers at Bihar Day.

The tortilla machine, which was imported from Mexico and given to RAU for roti making, was used to prepare QPM tortillas from nearly two tons of QPM. The tortillas were then packaged and sold for INR 10. More than 20,000 packages of QPM tortillas were sold to the public. In addition to general sales, refreshments were provided to visiting Members of Parliament, the Bihar Legislative Assembly, and Senior Officials for Home Consumption. A self-help group of women entrepreneurs, led by Rajkumari, supplied the pickles and helped to package and market the QPM breads.

‘QPM maize rotis with pickle’ received much attention and the demonstration and sales counter attracted a constant, large crowd throughout the day. In fact, the crowd was so large that having only one tortilla machine proved insufficient for meeting the large makka roti demand. Public interest in QPM breads (makka rotis) surprised most consumers, as they said they didn’t expect QPM makka roti to be so tasty. The three-day Bihar celebration allowed CIMMYT and partners to reach close to one million people at the Agriculture Pavilion, raising awareness about the accessibility and benefits of QPM. Narendra Singh, Bihar’s Minister of Agriculture, expressed much interest in the tortilla machine by interacting with scientists, technicians, and the general public to elicit their responses as to determine QPM’s potential in Bihar. As several media outlets covered the event, Mrityunjya Kumar, Usha Singh, and Raj Kumar were interviewed on subjects ranging from QPM makka roti production to consumption, the dietary importance of QPM, QPM hybrid seed production, seed availability, economics of QPM roti, shelf-life of QPM makka roti, and the possibilities of introducing QPM roti into schools.