Improved remittances from the Gulf adds flavour
Soaring prices of essential goods notwithstanding, Malayalis celebrated Onam in relatively improved economic circumstances than last year's.
This was thanks to the spectacular increase in the prices of farm outputs, especially rubber, and a rise in the remittances from the Gulf countries, where employment situation is looking up.
The improved purchasing power echoed in the pre-Onam shopping spree. White goods sale made rapid strides.
The rise in the prices of rubber, pepper and cardamom and, to some extent coconut, shored up the purchasing power of the rural people. The rubber price has been steadily increasing for three years, though in the past week or so, it slid a little.
Compared to this same time last year, the hike in rubber price has been around 75 per cent, which means a lot to the countryside. At one time, the price rose to Rs.190 a kg, but now it is at Rs.170 plus.
Rubber is one of the economic mainstays of the State and its price is an indication of the economic well-being of the countryside, especially in central Kerala.
Pepper and cardamom are the two other agriculture commodities that witnessed exciting increase in prices and helped to lift the economies of the mountain districts of Wayanad and Idukki, and also in all other districts.
Pepper at present commands a price of over Rs.194 a kg and cardamom now fetches a fantastic price of over Rs.1,340 a kg.
The rise in the prices of these three commodities have lifted the moods of the farmers and perked up the rural economy. Interestingly, the best way to get an indication of the way the prices of rubber, pepper and cardamom is going, it is said, is to have a look at the vehicle sales graph in the State.
A higher price for these products is almost always reflected in the sale of cars - all types and brands of them. The car market in the State has scaled new peaks in the recent months.
Gulf remittances have markedly improved in the past few months. The economic slowdown in the Gulf had cost thousands of jobs of Gulf Malayalis and dipped the pay levels. But, the situation has now improved and companies in the Gulf have resumed recruitment. The construction sector has also revived and salary levels are slowly rising.
The impact of the farm price rise and the better Gulf remittances have been felt on the white goods market. Pre-Onam purchases of white goods, prodded by offers and rebates, have been very brisk in Kochi, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kottayam and other cities.
However, the soaring prices of vegetables, provisions, meat, fish and almost all goods of daily use affected the people harshly, particularly the salaried and the daily wage earners. The market intervention by the State government, through Supplyco, came in as a minor relief to the urban and semi-urban residents.