Manapparai ‘murukku’ loses its crunch

August 30, 2020 06:51 pm | Updated 06:51 pm IST - Tiruchi

Due to travel restrictions in place for over five months, the production units in Manapparai have incurred losses.

Due to travel restrictions in place for over five months, the production units in Manapparai have incurred losses.

Sales of the famous ‘arisi murukku’ from Manapparai has taken a severe hit amid the COVID-19 lockdown. A major share of the sales was through travellers who would drive by the Tiruchi-Dindigul Highway but with travel restrictions in place for over five months, the production units have incurred losses, vendors say.

For I. James, whose family is one among the 600 makers of the fried snack, it is the main source of livelihood. “After reopening the units in July, we have been able to sell only about 20% of our usual sales. Our customers now have shrunk to local residents in Manapparai and people within Tiruchi,” he said.

When the lockdown was enforced on March 25, the 600 units had on hand a stock of at least ₹ 5 lakh worth of murukku, all of which had to be thrown out. “Since the lockdown was announced so suddenly, we could not even sell it quickly. We did hand out some to our neighbours and relatives, but most of it went stale,” Sheik Dawood, owner of another production unit said.

The summer holidays are a peak season for sales as people from across the State would travel to Palani, Kodaikanal and other nearby tourism spots. “For them, purchasing the murukku was part of their trip,” Mr. James pointed out. Now, with no buses, trains or cars plying, the roads are empty and so are their pockets, he added.

The sales of murukku had suffered a hit due to water crisis in Manapparai and the lockdown worsened their situation, Mr. James said. “The distinct flavour of the murukku comes from the salty well water mixed with rice flour and cumin seeds. However, as the wells dried up, we depended upon borewell water and had to additionally add salt. This changed the flavour. Soon, the plastic ban was enforced and packing of the murukku became even more difficult,” he said.

Mr. Dawood said that on an average day, the sales of the murukku in the region would amount to around ₹ 1 lakh. “There were around 40 to 45 brands in the region, but now, only eight or ten remain,” he said. At least 85 men used to be stationed outside the bus stand and the railway station but since the travel ban was imposed, they have all taken up other odd jobs. “Feeding their families is a priority. While some have taken to selling other fried snacks like samosas and vadas in the town, many are now construction workers,” he said.

While the vendors had submitted petitions to the District Collector and the State Government seeking relief, there has been no response, Mr. James said. “It will take at least two years to revive the business. Banks are not willing to give us loans and we do not have the funds to restart,” he added.

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