More than 150 manufacturing units in Salem, the hub for jaggery production in Tamil Nadu, are engaged round the clock in churning out huge volumes of jaggery, an essential ingredient of Pongal delicacy.
The price of jaggery has come down significantly due to availability of sugarcane in surplus and at low cost. “One sippam (30 kgs) of jaggery, which was sold for Rs 1,500 and above last year, is priced around Rs 1,250 this season. Such a price drop has been the result of a heavy increase in cane yield and rise in acreage of cultivation due to good rains this year,” said S Sathish, secretary of Salem district Sugarcane and Jaggery Manufacturers Association.
Last year, jaggery manufacturers were forced to procure cane from Mandya in Karnataka for Pongal to overcome short supply in Tamil Nadu due to poor harvest. Therefore, the shortage also led to an increase in prices of jaggery further affecting the sale.
“This season, one tonne of cane is priced at Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 depending upon its quality as against last year when we spent up to Rs 3,500 per tonne,” he added. In view of the surplus supply of cane, the jaggery manufacturers in Salem have scaled up production by making more than 8,000 ‘sippams’ a day with about 2.5 tonnes of cane.
Though jaggery consumption especially ‘naatu sakkarai’ has increased, jaggery manufacturers rued that the demand is low now owing to closure of schools as student’s consumption of ‘mittai’ and ‘burfi’ made out of jaggery bought from petty shops has been hit severely.
For Pongal, the production of jaggery has been undertaken by over 150 manufacturers spread over in areas such as Kamalapuram, Karuppur, Thottiapuram, Desiangadu and Akkarapatti in Salem district.
Though jaggery is also made in Chithode and Kavundampadi in Erode district, Pillikalpalayam in Namakkal, Dharapuram in Tirupur and Dindugul in Madurai district, the Salem jaggery is the most preferred one by traders for its quality, unique taste, aroma and sweetness.