Livelihood of many manufacturing and sales units plummeted to a new low with tourism in the hill town coming to a grinding halt this summer due to the coronavirus crisis.
With the tourism industry closed for months together in the ‘Princess of Hills,’ the homemade chocolate sector, which’s more of a cottage industry, is reeling from crisis now, many stakeholders relying on the industry feel.
Nearly 5,000 tonnes of homemade chocolates have been dumped in no man’s land. Anticipating a healthy flow of tourists for the peak season of April and May, large quantities of chocolates were made earlier. But, all the hopes of good sales went up in smoke, D Raj Kumar, president, Kodai Homemade Chocolate Welfare Association told DT Next.
The homemade chocolates can last for just three months and as many as 150 different varieties filled with lots flavours would normally be made in parts of Kodaikanal, he said. Though lockdown restrictions are lifted and 70 per cent of people in the plains are back to normal business, Kodaikanal is still struggling to return to normalcy, he added.
“When tourism is lost, everything is lost in Kodaikanal. Only when tourism resumes, the lives of around 45,000 people, who rely directly and indirectly on chocolate making, would be guaranteed,” said APN Thameem Ansari of Kodaikanal Spice Village from Laws Ghat Road. “We almost feel like being isolated on an island with no tourism and cash reserves dwindling rapidly. It’s now almost five months since the lockdown was effected, people in all walks of life in Kodaikanal are starving for money. With products, including homemade chocolates, herbal oil, spices and cosmetics suffering a loss of about Rs 200 crore in this year’s unhealthy season,” he said.
Ansari added that earlier, about 60 to 70 per cent of the populace in Kodaikanal relied on chocolate making, but since the prolonged lockdown, many traders and workers migrated to Tirupur to make a living.
A Abbas, another chocolate maker in the town since 1994, said, “Unlike Udhagamandalam, where sources of livelihood are many, Kodaikanal solely relies on tourists. Many could hardly repay loans obtained from banks since commercial market for the product did not exist this year.” Abbas requested the government to provide some compensation for the huge loss and interest free loans to resurrect the industry left dying by the pandemic.