Jasmine town spreads fragrance

500 families in Udupi town grow patented jasmine that is exported to Dubai, Qatar, the UK
Growers and traders of Shankarapura jasmine have created their own pricing mechanism, on the lines of micro commercial crops  | Rajesh Shetty Ballalbagh
Growers and traders of Shankarapura jasmine have created their own pricing mechanism, on the lines of micro commercial crops | Rajesh Shetty Ballalbagh

SHANKARAPURA(UDUPI): This small town in Udupi taluk has shown how a micro economic model can be developed into a global player. The Shankarapura jasmine, endemic to this town and in a 2-km  radius around it, has become a commercial crop having buyers all along the western coast, in Bengaluru, and in Dubai, Qatar and a few pockets in the United Kingdom.
The Shankarapura jasmine, accorded Geographical Indication (GI) status in 2008, received the central government’s official approval in 2013.
The GI status means the produce is limited to the particular region of Shankarapura, considering its soil and climate requirements. It also means that no one from any other territory can claim the patent on this flower other than the Shankarapura farmers.
The growers and traders of this special variety of jasmine have created their own pricing mechanism which is on the lines of many micro commercial crops like Mattu Gulla (an endemic variety of brinjal), arecanut and cocoa. The
market rate for the flower is decided in Shankarapura town by flower merchants on a daily basis depending on the supply and demand for flowers on that particular day.
The price per ‘atti’, a set of four garlands intricately woven with precise count, varies from `250 to `800.
This flower is predominantly used in wedding ceremonies, religious functions and it is a must in folk theatres like Bhoota Kola and Nagamandala.
Raghavendra B from Ambalapadi, a regular buyer, says that the price per atti was fixed at Rs 420 on September 26 and 27. The price may skyrocket to `800 per atti during the Navarathri festival, he says.
Abraham Fernandes, who has about 50 jasmine saplings in Moodubelle area, says one advantage of growing jasmine is that they get to know about the demand one day earlier through the traders. “So we weave the buds accordingly and will not let our efforts go waste.”
“Though demand has come down over the years, it surges during peak seasons like festivals and wedding ceremonies,” he says.  Jasmine garlands woven with banana stalk as temple offerings are considered more auspicious than those made with thread.
Bantakal Ramakrishna Sharma, president of Udupi Jasmine Growers’ Association, who grows 500 jasmine saplings in his backyard,  says that if there are volunteers to work to weave ‘attis’ at home, it will be a lucrative business as  income is guaranteed. The GI status has given it a better recognition in the market, particularly in Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Vadodara.
Sharma says there are about 500 families engaged in jasmine cultivation in Shankarapura region. Along the coast, in Udupi, Bhatkal and Kasargod, there are about 20,000 families for whom jasmine cultivation is a good income supplement.
Dinakar, a Shankarapura jasmine trader from Udupi, says that as the yield is less these days, demand may grow in the coming days.
The new breed of jasmine growers are ready to give the fabled Mysore Mallige and Bhatkal Mallige a run for their money. “But they are different jasmine varieties, they differ in the intensity of fragrance, the way they are weaved into a garland and even the colour is slightly different. So, there is no comparison,” says Mary D’Souza, a grower.
“The Shankarapura jasmine is longish and whiter in colour. And since it is grown on lands enriched by organic manure, the fragrance is like none other grown in the region. The growers also use a unique technique of pruning the plants so as to get the best output and perennial yield,” say horticulture department officials.

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