TIRUCHY: Even after centuries, the people of Tamil Nadu continue to show their preference for food to be served on banana leaves, leaving crockery by the wayside. This affinity has created to a huge market for the banana leaf trade across the State. However, factors like rising temperatures, the ongoing water crisis and whether the Cauvery Management Board will be formed are worrying stakeholders.
All districts in the State have daily markets for the banana leaf. The major markets are in Tiruchy, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvanamallai, Erode and Mettur. Any delay in Cauvery water supply would hit the central region and set the trade back by Rs 100 crore, according to experts. A banana plant requires five to 18 litres of water daily. But with the State yet to receive its share of Cauvery, stakeholders are worried.
“Currently, we are paying `1,000 for a bundle of 100 leaves which works out to a customer spending `5 rupees a leaf. However, lack of water will affect supplies and lead to a shortage. We need the water issue to be sorted out at the earliest,” said N Ratnavel, a hotelier in the city.
Leaf suppliers air similar concerns. “I supply about 100 bundles daily. Though I am not expecting a supply shortage, there are chances of a price hike,” said Marimuthu Karuppia, a leaf supplier.
However, there are fewer chances of hotels and restaurants abandoning this bio-plate. “Even if there is a price increase, we will not stop purchasing leaves. If we serve food on a plate, we have to allot more employees to clean the crockery. This will also lead to an increase in water consumption,” said Ganapathy Subramaniam, a hotel owner in the city.
Meanwhile, National Research Centre for Banana experts suggest the judicious use water and some of its wild plantain varieties could be the way to go. “Many farmers apply more water than required. Therefore, we suggest drip irrigation to reduce wastage,” said S Uma, director of the centre.