Mat Weavers Seek State's Help in Slashing Korai Price
Weavers of korai mats in Agaramcheri, Gollamangalam, Melalathur and Ponneri in the district are on an an indefinite strike for the past five days, demanding the State’s intervention to bring down the price of korai grass, the main raw material for the mat.
The weavers, who have been traditionally involved in the profession for over 50 years, say the price of the grass has risen over 300 per cent in the past one year.
S Suresh, secretary of the Agaramcheri Korai Weavers Association said, korai grass that was procured from Cauvery delta districts of Tiruchy and Karur used to cost around `600 for a 28-kg bundle until a year back. The merchants who procured the grass from the farmers had hiked the price to `1,500 besides reducing the weight of the bundles from 28 to 22 kg. “This has increased the production cost of the mats and the selling price had to be increased from `50 plus to `100 plus, that has not been received well by buyers,” Suresh said, and added that mats worth about `20 lakh were lying unsold in Vellore district as vendors, who used to purchase from the weavers, were finding it difficult to sell them. The consumers were opting for plastic mats available in the range of `50 to `70, he added. Some of the farmers of the Vellore region had been making the korai mats as a handmade product since the 1950s as a part-time venture in pockets like Agaramcheri near Pallikonda. Later, they migrated to machine weaving when former MP P Shanmugam imported a machine from Japan in 1980s. Today the profession is sustained by third generation weavers, who are mostly youngsters and who had become full-time weavers.
The failure of monsoon this year and reduction in cultivation of korai grass in the delta district were being exploited by the merchants (who acted as middlemen), who procured the grass from the farmers and sold the same by hiking the price manifold, complained the weavers here. “Neither the farmers nor the weavers were being benefited by this sudden price hike and it was helping only the middlemen,” Suresh pointed out, and added that the State government should come to the rescue of the weavers, to control the price and the quantity of the korai grass.
Further Suresh said, Vellore district housed around 150 weaving units and such units were functioned in 15 districts in the State. Over 1.5 lakh weavers, vendors and others had been affected by the price hike and the subsequent strike. The weavers had planned to meet at Salem on Thursday to take stock of the situation and chalk out further course of action.