Coimbatore

Palm jaggery prices fall as the season comes to a close

Arduous task: Caramelised palm jaggery is being poured into a pot at Mathur in Krishnagiri.   | Photo Credit: BASHKARAN N

It is another season ending for palm jaggery producers and, yet defying market logic, the prices have dropped leaving them at the mercy of the prices pitched by the traders.

At Mathur and Pochampalli, two of the biggest palm jaggery producing pockets in the district, the palm jaggery producers are looking at low prices offered by the traders in contrast to the prices offered at the start of the season in January.

Maadesh climbs anywhere up to 100 trees a day, starting long before dawn and ending just past noon. “When the season started, we sold palm jaggery for ₹ 160 a kg. Today, it has come down to ₹ 120 to ₹ 130 a kg,” Maadesh says.

The palm sap season lasts till April.

Palm jaggery production hinges on the family labour of the men who scale the trees they have taken on lease from the landowners. With low margins, they depend on the prices offered by the traders during the production season.

After the arduous, and often risky climb, the palm sap is collected in earthen pot tied several hours in advance.

The sap is then brought down, boiled to concentration and the reduced caramelised syrup is cooled and crystallised into semicircular cakes of palm jaggery.

A tree yields anywhere between 7 litres to 10 litres and on a good day, producers can collect anywhere up to 150 litres. It takes 40 litres to yield 10 kg to 12 kg of palm jaggery.

Palm jaggery production is a tedious process and yet is bereft of any support from the government, says Maadesh. The palm jaggery production continued even during COVID-19 lockdown, because uncollected sap would destroy the tree, he says.

Asked about the low prices offered to producers, Govindan, a trader who sells palm jaggery to buyers from Tiruchengode, claims the margin is low for the traders themselves.

“The jaggery from Pochampally is sold to Tiruchengode, and from there it is sold to Chennai, Madurai and other places. We are unable to find buyers directly from these places, because they don’t buy directly from us.”

Hence, with the number of middlemen along the supply chain, the bottom-end producers like Maadesh get the bare minimum price for their produce.

Traders offer an advance to the producers often locking them down to the prices, leaving no space for bargaining of prices for producers like Maadesh.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 11:04:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/palm-jaggery-prices-fall-as-the-season-comes-to-a-close/article34321040.ece

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