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Friday, March 6, 2015

farmers frown as Jasmine price nosedives !!

‘Malligai en mannan mayangum ponnana malar allavo’ was a popular song of the 1970s – from the movie Dheerga Sumangali featuring Muthuraman, KR. Vijaya – MS Viswanathan being the Music Director.   

Flowers are beautiful, make a pretty sight – whether they are singular, in a bunch, on the plant / creeper / tree, in a strand and more ... many of them provide fragrance and some claim that they have magical powers of healing too.........  most of them are passionately worn by women, especially in South India.  Right from Sangam literature, flowers have been integral part of Tamil lore – Malligai, Mullai, Sengagam, Lotus, Magizham, Rose, Lily, Vruchi, Senkanthal, Aambal, Anicham, Kurinji, Vaagai, Vagulam, Kongam ......  and more ….

At Chennai in Parrys area, there is the Pookkadai [flower bazaar] nearer Kothawal chavadi [once the vegetable hub] – the Police station on NSC Bose road is also named ‘Pookadai Police Station’.  The place once occupied by the wholesale flower trade is now a parking bay for State transport corporation buses. There are still a handful of flower sellers on the pavement in that area. Just opposite lies Badrian Street where you would find Stationery shops.   As you walk inside there is the flower market [though the wholesale market is shifted to Koyambedu] – here many flowers, especially Malli and rose would be sold.  One can buy Jasmine in strands or buy in kgs.  Walking inside narrow streets would by itself be an experience – yet there was so much fragrance around. 

“முப்பது பைசா மூணு முழம்...... முல்லை மல்லிகை கனகாம்பரம்” was a hit song of 1970s from film “Pookkari”  (written by Vaali) – descriptive of not only the fragrance but also the economy – in that song, heroine (as flower seller) – would dance and sing, selling flowers – the lyrics – ‘3 measures of flowers – Mullai, Malligai, Kanakambaram – for 30 paise’ – yes,  a measure for 10 paise  !

Jasmine [Malligai]  is a genus of shrubs and vines in the olive family (Oleaceae). It contains around 200 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions of the Eurasia, Australasia and Oceania. Jasmines are widely cultivated for the characteristic fragrance of their flowers.    Madurai’s unique link with the jasmine probably dates  to centuries.  There are extensive references to the flower in Sangam literature.  One of the Sangam poems describes how Pari, a Tamil king, could not bear to see a beautiful and delicate mullai jasmine creeper lying on the hard forest floor ~ and  he gifted his royal chariot to the plant so that the creeper could twine itself around. 

Madurai Malli is unique. With its heady fragrance, exclusive size and shape, the ‘Madurai Malli’s uniqueness has a distinct reputation universally. A couple of years back the GI [Geographical Indication] mark of  Geographical Indications Registry  made the farmers of Madurai, Theni, Dindigul, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar districts happy.   It was not the first though, as before Malli it was ‘Madurai Sungudi’ which got the GI tag.  The application for GI  had been filed jointly  by the Madurai Malli Farmers’ Association, Kurinji Vattara Kalanjiam and the DHAN Foundation, Madurai.

Today’s TOI has a report titled ‘farmers frown as jasmine nosedives’.   The report states that the steep fall in the prices of the famous Madurai malli [ jasmine] has farmers worried. The cost of jasmine, which touched a high a couple of months ago, has drastically slumped in the last couple of days. Flower vendors at the Mattuthavani flower market in Madurai say the jasmine, which was being sold for Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,800 per kg till recently , now costs less than Rs.200. A similar trend was evident in Chennai as well. At Koyambedu market, jasmine was sold for Rs.1,000 per kg last week. But on Wednesday , the price came down to Rs.400.

At the Mattuthavani market, the abundant availability of jasmine elsewhere brought down the demand. Supply of jasmine is also on the rise, helped by an increase in the yield. Price of the flower hit a low on Monday . From Rs.300 a kg in the morning, the price plummeted to less than Rs.100 a kg in the evening. The last couple of days have been difficult for traders.  Traders said the flower sold at an average Rs.500 per kg even a few days ago. While anything around Rs.300 was usual this season, the cost plunging to Rs.100 was rare, they said.

Between October and December, just around 500 kg was brought to the market, and now around three to four tonnes of jasmine are brought in. They are mostly coming from Nilakottai in Dindi gul and Aruppukottai in Virudhunagar,“ says Mattuthavani vendors.  Even though traders bemoaned the price dip, woman customers appeared happy . Scorching prices in the last few months had kept many of them away from jasmine. These days, they flock to the market to purchase the fragrant flower.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

26th Feb 2015.

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