BALASORE: Sabai grass artisans of Mayurbhanj are no longer finding their craft sustainable. In the absence of market linkage, they are forced to sell their products to middlemen from West Bengal and Jharkhand. The buyers procure the products at throwaway rates and sell it at a higher price in the open market.
Sabai grass is widely grown in Mayurbhanj district and is mainly used in making Sabai ropes.
While 1 kg of Sabai grass is sold at Rs 30, the same quantity of Sabai grass rope is priced at Rs 40.
Apart from ropes, artisans prepare a variety of handicraft products with Sabai grass, which are sold locally.
Artisans come to local haats at Betnoti, Baghada, Dhantiamuhan, Dhumsai and Baripada once in a week to sell their products, mostly ropes.
A craftsman, Dasarathi Hembram, said the middlemen purchase their products in a bunch instead of weight. This is the reason why they are paid less.
“They give us Rs 100 to Rs 200 for 10 to 20 kg of ropes, which comprises one bunch. Had they paid us on the basis of weight, we could have made at least Rs 600 for one bunch,” he said.
The artisans lament that Sabai craft has lost its charm due to onslaught of modernity. Though they have diversified their products, these are finding no market.
Officials of Odisha Rural Development And Marketing Society (ORMAS), however, said all necessary measures are being taken to help the artisans. CEO of ORMAS, Keshav Jha, said artisans are being provided every possible support to market their products. Efforts are being made to find new markets for handicrafts of North Odisha region. The Development Commissioner of Handicrafts has been conducting design development programmes in the district by involving traditional Sabai craft artisans and so far, 17 prototypes of Sabai rope have been created.
A training centre has also been opened at Baripada by Director of Handicraft and Cottage Industries to train local youths.