Price goes up to Rs.35-40 a piece depending on size, quality

Retail price of edible sugarcane, an integral part of Pongal festivities, remains on the upswing for the second year running in the city markets, ahead of the festival.

The juicy and black sugarcane variety, a must at every household celebrating the harvest festival, was sold at Rs.250 a bunch (10 canes) at the Gandhi Market, the main wholesale market in the city, on Saturday. Last year, the starting price was Rs.200 a bunch at the market.

Many traders at the market sell the sugarcane only in bunches, which are largely purchased by retail sellers from other parts of the city, and Tiruchi and neighbouring districts.

Retail traders sell the sugarcane at Rs.30 a piece. But this again is the minimum price and depending on the size and quality the price goes up to Rs.35-40 a piece. However, the price at the markets tends to fluctuate depending on the arrivals. “The price will depend on the arrivals. If arrivals increased during the day, the prices may come down as there will be no takers for this cane variety after the festival,” said Anand, who was selling the cane growing in his field at Kallakurichi, at the Gandhi Market on Saturday. Elangovan, another trader at the market, attributed the increase to the hike in the field price of the sugarcane. However, farmers’ representatives dispute the contention. “Farmers get just an average of Rs.15 to 20 a piece,” said A.Nagarajan, president, Tamil Nadu Horticulture Crop Producers Association, although he conceded that farmers have been forced to raise the price owing to increase in input costs.

Traders contend that the quality of the cane has not been good this year and sugarcane with fewer nodes fetch lesser price. Mr.Nagarajan attributes this to the lack of rain and poor knowledge on proper cultivation practices among farmers. “The crop requires micro nutrients, but most farmers do not apply them owing lack of knowledge and proper guidance. Most farmers raising the variety use pumpsets for irrigation and the absence of rain this year has also impacted on the quality of the cane,” he says.

There has been a gradual decline in the area of cultivation of the edible variety of sugarcane as it requires constant tending right through the crop duration of 10 months. In Tiruchi district, the edible variety of sugarcane is largely cultivated in and around Tiruvalarsolai, Uttmaraseeli, Panayapuram and Thuraiyur areas. Until a few years back, many farmers in Posampatti, Ettarai and Koppu, villages in the outskirts of the city, were raising the edible variety of sugarcane. But they have all stopped now. Farmers do not go in for large scale cultivation of this variety as even a minor shortcoming in tending the crop could result in crop getting affected and they could suffer losses.

Traders at Gandhi Market too say that arrivals have been poor till Saturday. But Agriculture Department officials said that there has been no significant drop in the area of cultivation of the edible variety of sugarcane in the district. “Normally, this variety is raised in about 250 acres in the district and this year too the same extent has been covered,” an official of the department said.