Kerala

Marayur jaggery on a sticky ground

Lost prospects: A farmer at his overgrown sugar cane farm at Marayur in Idukki district.

Lost prospects: A farmer at his overgrown sugar cane farm at Marayur in Idukki district.  

Shortage of skilled labour from Tamil Nadu post lockdown hits production

The Marayur landscape, a favourite of filmmakers owing to its lush sugar cane fields, is now dotted with overgrown sugar canes and flowers. Acute shortage of skilled labour, mostly from Tamil Nadu, has hit harvesting since April and the subsequent production of the famed jaggery that flaunts the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

600 hectares

Sugar cane is cultivated in over 600 ha of land in Marayur and Kanthallur villages for producing jaggery.

Since the lockdown, the labourers have stopped coming, says Selvin Mariyappan, a farmer and chief of the Marayur Hills Agriculture Development Society (MHADS), one of the three authorised agencies to market Marayur jaggery.

The harvesting is usually done in rotation in the farms. This ensures that there is jaggery production throughout the year. But the crisis has hit the rotating system and farms that were to be harvested in April still remain untouched, says Mr. Mariyappan.

Once overgrown, sugar cane will not yield the juice required to make the jaggery. From April, the production per week has dropped from 14 tonnes to below four tonnes. Recent rain has done further damage.

Arogyasami, a farmer, says overgrown sugar canes in his field have begun flowering.

The price of jaggery has also dropped and is around ₹65 now. “It does not fetch much profit,” he adds.

Marayur Agriculture Officer Priya Peter said the issue was being taken up with authorities. At present, it was not advisable to seek labour from Tamil Nadu. She said if the production of Marayur jaggery drops, replacements arriving from Tamil Nadu could be marketed as ‘Marayur jaggery.’

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 8:44:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/marayur-jaggery-facing-the-covid-crisis/article31955691.ece

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