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Pongal fervour missing, Koyambedu traders face losses

Ahead of Pongal, the Koyambedu Market Management Committee auctions a three-acre space to hold special sandhai every year.

Published: 13th January 2022 06:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th January 2022 02:39 PM   |  A+A-

Turmeric and sugarcane being unloaded at the Koyambedu wholesale market ahead of Pongal festival on Wednesday | Ashwin Prasath

Turmeric and sugarcane being unloaded at the Koyambedu wholesale market ahead of Pongal festival on Wednesday | Ashwin Prasath

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Pongal is the time of plenty and prosperity, but this year the farmers of the State and traders at the Koyambedu market, one of the largest wholesale markets in South Asia, are staring at huge losses as they are being forced to sell sugarcane, turmeric and ginger at throwaway prices. Many said it would be difficult to even recover production and transportation costs.

Ahead of Pongal, the Koyambedu Market Management Committee auctions a three-acre space to hold special sandhai every year. Farmers and traders from across the State come here and sell their produce. However, there was no auction this year due to the pandemic. Despite that, nearly 250 lorries laden with produce are stationed at the market.

“I bought nearly five lorries of sugarcane from farmers in Madurai, Tiruchy and Thanjavur. With each lorry having around 600-700 bundles of sugarcane, it should sell at Rs 400 per bundle for me to recover costs. But we are selling the cane only at Rs 250-300. Each bundle has 15 to 20 canes,” said A Murugan, a trader. “Sugarcane bundles used to sell as high as Rs 1,200 each due to an increase in demand during Pongal. Due to the pandemic, lower middle-class people have no money to purchase the produce. We will be forced to dump the sugarcane if we don’t sell it for a low price,” said P Suresh from Ambattur.

The same was the case with ginger and turmeric. “Turmeric is usually sold at Rs 200 during Pongal time, but is being sold at Rs 70-80 now. The traders refused to purchase the produce as they know they can’t sell it at a higher price. So, we came here to sell it directly and it will be a miracle if we recover production costs,” said A Vadivel, a turmeric farmer from Thandalacheri near Gummidipoondi. Ginger was sold being sold at Rs 25 per bundle, a low from the usual `60 per bundle.

As the demand is low, local traders also purchased less. “Usually, I purchase around 200 ginger bundles. But I only purchased 50 bundles for Rs 20 each this time,” said A Mala, a trader in Virugambakkam. The market receives a minimum of 500 truckloads of sugarcane and another 75-100 truckloads of turmeric and ginger during Pongal season, but it received only 200 trucks and 35 trucks respectively. “We asked them to go back when they came to the market as auction was not held. As they said they will be forced to dump the produce, we collected a fine and allowed them to the use the space to sell the produce,” said an official from Market Management Committee.



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