There seems to be no end to the problems being faced by jaggery manufacturers in Mandya. Less quantity of diversion of sugarcane, frequent power cuts and labour shortage have been haunting the ‘aalemanes’ (traditional jaggery producing units) in the ‘land of sugar’ .

Mandya has more than 530 registered ‘aalemanes’ which used to produce at least 10 lakh tonnes of jaggery every year. Conversely these units have been facing a series of problems since the past three months and, perceptibly, jaggery production has decreased.

Cane shortage

Whilst the shortage of cane is the primary problem, load-shedding and labour scarcity are other problems.

The total area available for cultivation in Mandya is around 2.48 lakh hectares. The farmers grow sugarcane on 30,630 hectares. Nevertheless, the ongoing Cauvery water crisis and scanty rainfall have changed the agricultural scenario in the district.

All seven taluks in the district have been declared as ‘drought hit’ as the farmers incurred huge loss due to drought in the last two years.

Furthermore, the Irrigation Department had stopped releasing water into Chikka Devaraya canal, Virija canal, Bangara Doddi canal, Visvesvaraya canal, Right Bank Low Level canal (RBLL) and Left Bank Low Level canal (LBLL) from January 1 this year due to poor storage at the reservoir.

“Hence, the cane growers have stopped cultivating sugarcane in the district,” Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Haniyambadi Nagaraju said.

The jaggery production has drastically decreased as cane cultivation has stopped in a majority of sowing areas, Kallenahalli Thimmegowda, former president of Mandya Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), told The Hindu .

The jaggery units used to produce nearly 80,000 quintals of jaggery every month. This year they cannot produce even half of the capacity, said Thimmegowda, owner of Sri Vinayaka Jaggery Unit at Kallenahalli near Yeliyur Circle in Mandya, who has been supplying jaggery to various States since the past three decades.

Labour shortage

A unit needs at least 25 labourers in a day. While a small unit can produce around five quintals of jaggery, big units can produce up to 50 quintals in a day.

Over 75 per cent of the produce at the jaggery manufacturing units goes to markets in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and others States for sweets production.

A labourer gets Rs. 300 per day as wages. Jaggery manufacturers lament that even after paying Rs. 300 they are not getting sufficient number of labourers to produce jaggery.

Activities such as cane cutting, cane crushing, juice boiling and making jaggery need skilled labourers. On several occasions the labourers demand more money or go away to other units.

Around 15 per cent of jaggery manufacturing units have already stopped activities in the past two months, an ‘aalemane’ owner said.

The district has four sugar factories and they produce around 26 lakh tonnes of sugar. While cane cultivation has stopped in most of the sowing areas, cane growers are supplying their produce to the sugar factories.

“The diversion quantity of cane to jaggery units has drastically come down,” Mr. Thimmegowda said.

The jaggery units remain operational largely throughout the year. They used to receive high quality sugarcane resulting in higher recovery. The cane supply to the units was smooth. But because of a series of problems they slowly are suspending their activities.

Price rise

Most of the traders at the APMC in Mandya say that the jaggery price may go up due to less production.

The bucket-shaped jaggery cost Rs. 3,300 per quintal on October 20, 2012. Its price went up to Rs. 3,500 in March this year. Similarly, the price of box-shaped jaggery has increased to Rs. 3,700 from Rs. 3,330 during the same period. The price of cube-shaped jaggery has also steeply increased in the last six months.

M.T. Shiva Kumar

Problems haunt jaggery units in Mandya district