How the pandemic helped Bengal’s moa-makers boost their sales

The confectionery is highly perishable product and should be sold fast

Published - December 12, 2021 02:54 am IST - Kolkata

The pandemic turned out to be a blessing for Joynagar moa, the famous winter sweetmeat of Bengal, as it forced them out of their comfort zone and reach out to consumers increasing their sale. Photo: Special Arrangement

The pandemic turned out to be a blessing for Joynagar moa, the famous winter sweetmeat of Bengal, as it forced them out of their comfort zone and reach out to consumers increasing their sale. Photo: Special Arrangement

For the makers of the Joynagar moa , the famous winter sweetmeat of Bengal, the pandemic turned out to be a blessing as it forced them out of their comfort zone and reach out to consumers — a move that has dramatically increased their sales.

“COVID has been a great teacher. Before the pandemic, people came to Joynagar in search of our moa and we were happy with whatever we sold. But COVID placed restrictions of the movement of people and we realised it was time for us to reach out to them. This seems to have created a win-win situation for both manufacturers and consumers,” Ashok Kumar Kayal, founding secretary of the Joynagar Moa Nirmankari Society — a group of 46 moa -makers from the town of Joynagar near Kolkata — told The Hindu .

The moa is a popped-rice ball held together with fresh date-palm jaggery that is extracted during the winter months, and its manufacture is so synonymous with Joynagar that it earned the Geographical Indication tag of Joynagar Moa in 2015.

Last year, the society had, for the first time, tied up directly with popular sweet shops in and around Kolkata in a bid to check imitations that cashed in on the name of Joynagar moa . But the tie-ups weren’t very fruitful for the moa -makers because the shops stocked the sweet in limited quantities as they didn’t want it to overshadow their regular fare.

“So, this year in Kolkata, we have tied up with some large Government-run wholesale cooperative societies — in Jadavpur, Behala, and in Sarsoona — and also with Biswa Bangla. We have also arranged with some private parties, such as Metro Cash & Carry, to sell our products. We are also aggressively reaching out to customers in the districts of Bardhaman and Hooghly,” Mr. Kayal said.

Not just West Bengal; on Thursday, a consignment of 15 kg of moa was shipped to Chennai. A similar quantity will soon go to Hyderabad. Last year, for the very first time, moa (a highly perishable product) was sent by air to outside India — to Bahrain. This year, a few hundred boxes are likely to go to Canada and Hong Kong as well. “This year, we expect to sell around 7,000 boxes (each box contains 500 gm of moa ), last year we did only 3,000 boxes. COVID has been a big lesson for us — we would have never reached out to consumers otherwise,” Mr. Kayal said.

The moa is available only during the winter months in Bengal, from the beginning of December till the end of February, when fresh date-palm jaggery is available. It is said to have made its appearance as recently as in 1904, becoming synonymous with Joynagar over the decades, even though many other adjoining settlements specialise in it. The sweetmeat is made of aromatic khoi — popped rice — mixed with jaggery, sugar, cashew nuts and raisins.

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