KANNUR:Layers of dust that settled on the rusted metal parts could not take away the pungent smell of cinnamon oil.
The distilling machines installed at the Anjarakkandi estate here, established by Lord Brown of East India Company in 1767 and once considered Asia’s largest cinnamon plantation, has been idling for the past six years.
Cinnamon estates in North Malabar including Anjarakkandi, which once spread over 1,500 acres, played a major role in the spice trade until a decade ago. Indian cinnamon was only second to the one from Sri Lanka and appreciated the world over for its quality. The Anjarakkandi Estate has now shrunk to 300 acres.
Many estates have either been closed down or are in the verge of going to seed. Cinnamon growers in North Malabar have been hit by cheaper produce from Sri Lanka, huge import of cassia, an alternative considered to be a health risk, and the increase in labour cost.
“The estate was leased out 10 years ago, but they too backed out after a few years,” said K Krishnan, administrative officer of Anjarakkandi Medical College, which owns the plantation.
The estate once employed 120 workers, who were tasked with collecting bark and leaves for extracting oil. The bulk of it was exported, but the profits dwindled as the labour cost went up, said Krishnan, who supervised the estate till it was closed down.
Aditya Dev, owner of D V Deo Industries, which once had a flourishing cinnamon business blames it on cassia and duty-free import of cinnamon from Sri Lanka. “We had 80 acres in Manjeri and 36 acres in Nilambur, where about two tonnes of oil and 3 tonnes of cinnamon barks were produced annually. Import is cheaper, so the business is no more profitable,” he said.
Leonard John, a cinnamon farmer from Kannur who is running a crusade against import of cassia, said he is on the verge of closing down his 30 acres of estate.
“The Health Ministry has done little despite our campaign against cassia which is a health risk because of toxins,” he said.