Sago is mainly sent to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, where its consumption is high. Even though the demand is less in Tamil Nadu, almost 95 per cent of sago requirements of the country are met by manufacturers in the state. Also, a majority of over 350 sago manufacturing units are located in Salem, Namakkal and Krishnagiri districts.
“Orders for sago have dropped drastically by over 40 per cent over the last one month due to COVID-19 curbs in Delhi and several other north Indian states, where the pandemic spread is high. The manufacturers anticipated a drop in demand for sago as the business was affected similarly even during the first wave of outbreak during last year,” said S Siddharth, managing partner of Jayavel Sago Factory in Salem.
Manufacturers claimed that huge volumes of sago rice meant for exports have stagnated resulting in unbearable loss. Drop in sale of sago has also delivered a blow to tapioca farmers in the Western region.
“Tapioca production dropped by 30 per cent as crops were affected by an invasive pest in the farms. Due to a drop in production, the farmers were expecting tapioca to be sold for Rs 14,000 and more per tonne. But it has now been sold for barely Rs 6,000 per tonne due to poor demand. Also, the issue is that truck drivers are reluctant to carry loads to north Indian states due to severe checks and restrictions,” said R Gopalakrishnan, president of Tapioca and maize Farmers Association.
Yield of tapioca has dropped from nearly 20 tonnes an acre to just 10 tonnes due to pest attack. More than 10 lakh farmers are cultivating tapioca in over 25 lakh acres of land in Salem, Namakkal, Villupuram and Erode districts. More than five lakh people, including farmers, manufacturers and workers, who were dependent on this business for their livelihood, have been staring at uncertainty due to the impact of the pandemic.