Steep fall in beedi consumption due to influx of cheaper brands of cigarettes

KANNUR: Beedi and pickle may sound as different as cheese and chalk. But for Kannur-based Kerala Dinesh Beedi Cooperative (KDBC), diversification from beedi into pickles, curry powder and garments has been the survival strategy adopted by it to shore sagging revenue caused by the steep fall in beedi consumption.

Once regarded the world’s largest cooperative of beedi workers, KDBC’s revenue has been coming down steadily over the years due to a host of factors including the general fall in smoking habit, influx of cheaper brands of cigarettes and ban on smoking in public places. Formed in the 1970s to provide jobs to hundreds of beedi rollers sacked by private units, the total workers under KDBC had come down from 40,000 to 10,000 in recent years. The total beedi business also plummeted from Rs.120 crore in the early 1980s to around Rs.35 crore in recent years, KDBC chairman C. Rajan said.

Main customers

The main beedi customers in Kerala are now migrant workers flocking to the state in search of manual jobs in unorganised sectors like construction. “It is a paradox that while smoking is looked down upon, there has been a phenomenal increase in alcohol consumption, especially among the youth,” Mr. Rajan said.

Cigarettes

Spurious and cheaper brands of cigarettes coming from other states flouting all market rules and regulations had sharply dented demand for branded beedis among low-income smokers. —PTI

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