THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: August is one of the busiest times of the year when handloom weavers in Balaramapuram and the surrounding villages are completing Onam orders which include traditional cotton kasavu saris, set-mundu and other types of weaves. However, due to the current pandemic situation and with no hopes of a revival, the handloom industry in Balaramapuram is eyeing poor sales this Onam. As many as 800 families’ livelihoods have been disrupted.
“My mother and I have been trying to sustain ourselves by weaving, despite suffering from ailments. Huge stocks are piling up as there are no sales. Although we had pinned hopes on this festive season, we’re unsure about selling even a single set,” said 58-year-old Mohanan. “Preparations for the festive season begin at least two months in advance. Customers from other districts come here to shop for their favourite weaves. Since the district was not affected by floods, we had several customers in the previous years. This time, the lockdown restrictions played spoilsport. While more than 70 per cent of the total stock is usually sold during Onam, we’re certain that even 50 per cent will not be sold this season,” said Kiran Kumar, owner of a shop selling traditional Kerala weaves for 35 years.
Explaining the difficulties in procuring raw materials due to the lockdown, Kiran said: “It has only been a week since we re-opened after being shut for nearly four months due to the pandemic. There is surplus stock left with the weavers. Raw materials such as thread and yarn are unavailable since most of the shops are closed. Earlier, we used to buy at least 1,000 saris a week from the weavers. It has now reduced to just 100 since we can’t afford to pay them.”
Since most weavers are not tech-savvy, Kiran said it is difficult for them to tap into online platforms like other artisans to sell a few orders. Kiran is hoping to sell a few Onam orders through online platforms to survive the crisis.The weaving industry is also facing a huge financial crisis. “We usually begin our preparations six months before the festive season since the demand is high. This time we have been unable to pay salary to our weavers and repay the loan we had taken to procure raw materials,” said P Siddharthan of C S Handlooms.