Shortfall in sugarcane hits jaggery production in Erode district

Jaggery being produced in an unit at Mullamparappu in Erode district on Wednesday.

Jaggery being produced in an unit at Mullamparappu in Erode district on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: M. Govarthan

Government support sought for export of jaggery

With one month left for Pongal festival, production of jaggery is on as usual at the small units spread over the district even as manufacturers say that shortfall in sugarcane production is affecting their business.

There are over 220 units in Mullamparappu, Arachalur, Perundurai, Kavindapadi and Ammapet areas in the district where production of jaggery and brown sugar is carried out for many generations. These small units, depending upon the production capacity, employ less than 20 persons who, except for the month-long holiday in January, work throughout the year producing jaggery and brown sugar. Sugarcane juice is extracted, boiled and stirred continuously, filtered and moulded manually and packed in gunny bags, each weighing 30 kg and is known as “sippam”. Orders were placed by the traders and the final product is taken to the jaggery market at Chithode for auctioning.

K. Rajamaniyan (67), who runs a unit in Mullamparappu for 41 years, said that sugarcane was easily available in local areas until 2015 and they were getting reasonable price for their produce. “In the past four years, we have to purchase it from Bhavani and transportation cost takes away our profit”, he said.

By crushing one tonne of cane, they were able to get 80 kg of jaggery which was 100 kg earlier. “About 20 years ago, we were getting up to 120 kg of jaggery”, he said and added that the quality of the cane had also dropped over the years. He said that there is no much joy for them for Pongal as the orders are normal and the price of jaggery varies from ₹40 to ₹45 a kg. Jaggery produced here is sold at Srivilliputhur, Rajapalayam, Madurai, Kovilpatti, and Thoothukudi and also in Kerala for making tea.

Banned chemicals are used by the manufactures to remove impurities from the jaggery while boiling and many units continue with the practice. Speaking on anonymity, another owner said that since traders insist on the product to be bright yellow in colour, they were adding more chemicals. “We will not get the right price, if chemicals are not added”, he said and added that jaggery made of natural colours were purchased at low price. Since jaggery has immense health benefits, owners wanted the government to promote it and also help in export so that the cottage industry survives.

Officials of the Tamil Nadu Food Safety Department had on December 7 raided the jaggery market at Chithode and seized 2,910 kg of adulterated product. Officials wanted consumers to insist on natural colours instead of the adulterated bright yellow coloured jaggery.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 7:08:36 PM |

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