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Fluctuating prices leave jasmine farmers hanging by a string

G.Sathyamoorthi
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Seek perfume unit as promised by CM in her poll manifesto

Lost the aroma:A pest-attacked jasmine flower at a field in Ettarai village near Tiruchi.— PHOTO:R.M. RAJARATHINAM
Lost the aroma:A pest-attacked jasmine flower at a field in Ettarai village near Tiruchi.— PHOTO:R.M. RAJARATHINAM

The price of jasmine has started spiralling again with the wholesale price crossing Rs.400 a kg. The price of the fragrant flower was ruling around Rs.150-160 a kg in July this year, while during the October-December period of 2011, which was an off season, it was quoting around Rs.1,500-1,600 a kg.

“During mid-March to mid-June it’s a problem of plenty and I have sold it even for Rs.7 a kg,” says A.V.Chandiran, a farmer from Ettarai, about 10 km from here. “We can’t leave the flowers unplucked as it would cause serious diseases,” he adds.

Normal yield per acre per month during the season could be between 600-700 kg.

Now there is a sharp slump in the yield – even to an extent of more than 70 per cent. Hence arrivals in the market have dwindled jacking up the prices, he adds.

It would have been ideal had there been good rains as that would have given the plants “good rest”, he adds.

Tiruchi district, one of the major producers of jasmine in the State, is reeling under wide price fluctuation .

Puliyur Nagarajan, president of the Tiruchi District Horticultural Producers’ Association, points out that at least 1,000 acres in the district are covered under jasmine involving more than 2,000 farmers.

The cost of cultivation works out to Rs.50, 000 per acre and the plants survive for almost 10 to 15 years. “The price obtained now is far less than last year because of virtual absence of rains during the past two months,” he explains.

N.Annadurai, another farmer, who has been raising jasmine for the past four decades, says that the prices going up during winter is nothing new because the yield goes down considerably due to the setting in of mist. These jasmine plants suffer budworm damage too, he points out.

G.Gajendran, Professor of Entomology, Anbil Dharmalingam Agricultural College and Research Institute, near here, explains that the poor yield during winter is due to two major reasons – poor flowering and budworm damage. This is quite common during winter season.

“Budworm could be controlled. But using neem oil alone wouldn’t help much. It requires chemical insecticide.”

Prof.Gajendran points out that while southwest monsoon has been a failure, northeast monsoon, the mainstay of the season in the region, has not been copious except in coastal districts. “Poor rainfall is a contributory factor to the current situation.”

He does not accept the point of view of farmers that they could afford to ignore the current budworm attack because they are unwilling to spend much on a crop that doesn’t fetch them a good yield. “Even this situation should be managed properly,” he asserts. He adds that the price range would continue to be so up to Pongal. After Pongal, once summer sets in, the yield will start going up thus bringing down the prices.

V.Raju, a major commission merchant in the Srirangam market, says Srirangam and Gandhi Markets handle at least three tonnes to five tonnes of jasmine every day. He admits that there is a phenomenal fluctuation in prices.

“There is absolutely nothing scientific about the pricing mechanism. It is all pure supply and demand”.

Besides, the price skyrockets during marriage season (about 110 days), amavasai, pournami, and pradosham. Thus, on an average, there is considerable demand for at least 150 days a year.

All that the farmers now seek is a perfume unit in the region as promised by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in her election manifesto.

“Taking our flowers to Nilakkottai where a private unit is functioning is an arduous task. We would be happy to get Rs.80 per kg throughout the year. Only a perfume unit could ensure us such a price,” they plead.

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