This is the first GI tag given to a flower in Tamil Nadu

With its heady fragrance, exclusive size and shape, the ‘Madurai Malli’s uniqueness has a distinct reputation universally. Farmers from Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar districts cultivating ‘Madurai Malli’ are jubilant as it has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) mark by the Geographical Indications Registry. Application for GI was made in June 2000 and approval came on January 16.

This is the second GI tag for Madurai after ‘Madurai Sungudi’ and the second for jasmine flower after ‘Mysore Malli.’

“This is the first GI tag given to a flower in Tamil Nadu. The tag will give us legal production and prevent unauthorised use of the name by others,” said S. Aravindan, secretary of Madurai Malli Farmers’ Association.

The application for GI was jointly filed by the Madurai Malli Farmers’ Association, Kurinji Vattara Kalanjiam and the DHAN Foundation, Madurai.

Cultivated across 900 acres in Madurai district alone, an average of 489 tonnes of the flower is yielded every year from Madurai. According to C.R. Ananda Kumar, Professor of Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Agricultural College and Research Institute here, the topographical conditions in erstwhile Madurai (that spread across the four other districts) are best suited for the cultivation, making it distinct.

“Madurai Malli has thick petals and strong fragrance. Unlike in other places, the length of the stalk of the flower is equal to that of its petal and is also bulky. This makes it easy for the flower weavers to tie the flowers closer, which is not possible with flowers from other places,” he told The Hindu.

‘Madurai Malli’ has six to nine petals and greenish white colour when collected from the plant in the morning. Around noon it turns milky white and then creamy white with a tint of silver shine by evening. Madurai Malli is woven in six different forms, ‘uruttu kattu,’ ‘pattai katti,’ ‘kadhambam,’ ‘maalai’ and ‘thirumbipaar.’

The colour and the fragrance of the flower stay intact for two days due to its thick petal because of delayed anthesis, said Mr. Ananda Kumar. Due to the topography of the region, alkaloids like ‘jamone’ and ‘alpha terpineol’ accumulate in the flowers, resulting in the heady fragrance, he added.

“The GI tag will reinforce Madurai Malli’s identity in the global market. The tag will help preserve the biodiversity of Madurai and protect the legitimate rights of jasmine farmers,” said M.P. Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation.

“Madurai Malli is the pride of Madurai from Sangam age (5th century BC),” Mr Vasimalai added. The flower has been mentioned in Tamil literature like Paripaadal, Madurai Kanchi, Silappathikaram and Kurinji Paattu.

Price fluctuation

The yield of the flower is at its peak between the Tamil months of Chithirai and Aadi. “The price of ‘Madurai Malli’ goes up to Rs.1000 (sometimes even Rs.2000) per kilogram in the months between Aippasi and Thai, when the yield is low. When the yield is at its peak, the price drops to Rs.10 per kilo gram. The price should be stabilised to protect the interest of farmers,” said Mr. Aravindhan.

Farmers also said the tag would eliminate adulteration when exported.

“Generally ‘Madurai Malli’ is mixed with jasmine from other places while being exported to countries such as Singapore and the fragrance is lost. Now, if someone does the adulteration, the person might land in jail, in addition to paying a hefty fine”, said S. Chinnakanthasamy Naicker, who cultivates jasmine on two acres at Muruganeri, near T. Kallupatti.

“The quantity of ‘Madurai Malli’ arriving at the flower markets in Madurai has declined over the years. Three years ago, at least 15 tonnes of ‘Madurai Malli’ arrived at the markets every day between February and November. It has declined by 30 per cent and now it is between 10 to 12 tonnes a day,” said N. Jegatheesan, president of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ideal topography

The topographical condition of Madurai is ideal for cultivation of Madurai Malli, but the shoots are always nurtured in and around Rameswaram, said farmers.

“Branches are cut from the jasmine plants here are taken to Rameswaram to be nurtured. From there we buy them again. For three months after buying the shoots, we take care of them like our children. During the three months, they require a balanced amount of rain and sunlight. After they are cultivated, they give us yield for 10 to 15 years,” said Mr. Chinnakanthasamy Naicker. One acre of jasmine farm requires 2000 to 3000 shoots, he added.