TIRUCHY: A secret recipe passed on through generations continues to make Manapparai murukku one of the most popular crunchy snacks in South India. However, the lack of a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for this snack allows online suppliers to pass off normal murukku as the Manapparai variety.
Mani Iyer was the pioneer who introduced the special variety of the murukku here in the 20th century to customers at the railway station. Currently, around 300 families in Manapparai are engaged in making this traditional murukku. Most traditional snack makers have not introduced new varieties and still use the recipe introduced by Mani Iyer.
The popularity of this snack has not ebbed and many people pass through on the Tiruchy-Dindigul national highway just to stop at Manapparai and buy this murukku. Yet, despite popular demand, the third generation of Manapparai murukku makers are not making much profit from it.
“Currently, we make about 4,000 murukkus daily and every month manage sales of about Rs 1.5 lakh. I have to pay salaries to three of my workers, so my profit is less than Rs 15,000 a month. If we had machines, we could produce more than 8,000 murukkus every day without spending much. Though we have approached many banks for financial assistance, they are not ready to sanction loans,” said Manohar, a popular murukku maker also known as Murukku Manohar.
Middlemen who buy this traditional snack from the makers are the major beneficiaries of this industry, which has the potential to generate Rs 100 crore in revenue.
Online suppliers are also generating revenue. Currently, the Manapparai murukku is available online for Rs 280 for a 500 gm packet (40-45 pieces). A traditional maker in Manapparai sells the snack for Rs 100 with 48 pieces. Many websites also guarantee free shipping across the country and international delivery with shipping costs added to countries in Europe and North America. However, in most cases, the murukku bought online is not of the original Manapparai variety.
The absence of a GI tag has come as a double whammy for traditional makers who already get a raw deal with marginal profits. “If we get the GI tag, it will help us get financial assistance from banks. It will also stop the misuse of our brand. The GI tag would help more than 300 families who depend on this work,” said Muthupandy, secretary of the Manapparai Murukku Merchants Association.
With no major effort to get the all-important GI tag, the average monthly earnings of people like Chellamma, who sells the murukku at the bus stand, continues to be less than Rs 6,000 a month.