Defunct Kaavalkinaru flower market with cold storage facility to be revived shortly

Published - July 10, 2024 05:34 pm IST - TIRUNELVELI:

The Tamil Nadu Government’s flower market-cum-auction centre with cold storage facility near Kaavalkinaru in the district, which remains defunct for the past 14 years, is all set to be revived, much to the jubilation of floriculturists of this dry region.

 Since the Radhapuram taluk is a rain shadow region and has not been blessed with channels guaranteeing water for irrigation at least four months a year, the 3,000-odd farmers of this region go in for floriculture that requires less water and occasional drizzle. Even though the Radhapuram channel should get Petchipaarai Dam water, nature and local politics play truant most of the time denying water to farmers of the region. Hence, the farmers, utilising the little water and the hot climatic conditions prevailing in this area, cultivate a range of flowers.

 With the available well water, the farmers irrigate the flowers and sell their produce including marigold, wild jasmine, jasmine, oleander, firecracker flower, magnolia, marjoram leaf, globe amaranth, velvet flower etc. in the flower market in nearby Thovaalai in Kanniyakumari district. The farmhands, mostly women, get an income of ₹400 or ₹500 a day by plucking flowers. Since the flower traders from the southern districts and neighbouring Kerala procure flowers from this age-old market, the growers get decent price for their produce.

 After the middlemen entered the scene to procure flowers from the farmers and sell it to the buyers at inflated price, both the growers and the traders were affected.

 Hence, Speaker M. Appavu, who was then MLA of Radhapuram Assembly segment, persuaded late Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and then Minister for Agriculture Veerapandi S. Arumugam for establishing a flower shops, auction centre with cold storage facility like the successful ‘Uzhavar Sandhai’ model to weed-out the middlemen. Subsequently, 40 flower shops with auction centre at Kaavalkinaru came-up on 3.45 acres on an outlay of ₹1.63 crore on August 20, 2009. It is situated just 12 Km away from the Thovaalai flower market.

 “The facility attracted hundreds of floriculturists from Aavaraikulam, Pazhavoor, Kannakulam, Kaavalkinaru, Vadakkankulam, Kumarapuram, Chidambarapuram Yakobupuram, South Karunkulam, Irukkanthurai and 20 more villages to sell their produce at the right price. As this system removed middlemen from the trade, the farmers and the buyers were benefited,” says district panchayat councilor Bhaskar of Aavaraikulam.

 However, the middlemen, who liberally gave loans to the farmers in a bid to woo towards them, forced them to sell their produce in the flower market at Thovaalai and the Tamil Nadu Government’s flower market-cum-auction centre suffered natural death within 18 months. Unfortunately, a former minister from Kanniyakumari district also backed the middlemen. Finally, the change of guard at Fort St. George in 2011 too ensured that the venture does not get revived.

 “We were getting better price for our produce (flowers)… After the farmers fell prey to the middlemen’s cunning strategies, we lost decent revenue as the middlemen’s cartel that refused decent price for our flowers while they earned thousands of rupees everyday as profit by just buying it from the farmers and selling it to their customers. So, they were keen on strangulating the Kaavalkinaru flower market,” recall farmers Jegan and Manikandan of Aavaraikulam.

 Now, Mr. Appavu has taken-up the revival of the flower market-cum-auction centre, where the equipments in the cold storage facility are almost lying like scrap. With his efforts, ₹1.25 crore has been allotted for preliminary revival works.

 “Since this facility is advantageously located close to the four-lane Kanniyakumari - Kashmir national highway and Thiruvananthapuram – Nagercoil – Kaavalkinaru two-lane state highway, this venture was performing exceedingly well. Now, steps are being taken to revive this venture, which will ensure better income to the floriculturists. Moreover, the farmers can store their flowers in the cold storage facility until they get better price for their produce. So, the new-look flower market with auction centre and cold storage facility will be ready soon for transacting business,” Mr. Appavu told The Hindu on Wednesday.

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