Kolhapur’s Rs 300-350 crore jaggery-making business is in trouble. Jaggery manufacturers in Kolhapur are complaining of being outpriced by cheap chemically-made jaggery imports from Karnataka. They fear that this traditionally-made jaggery, which is known throughout the country for its unique taste and aroma, could soon become a thing of the past. The farmers have been seeking a minimum support price (MSP) for jaggery.
Of late, a cheaper variety of jaggery has been flooding the neighbouring Sangli market near Kolhapur and other markets in the state as well. This variety of jaggery, according to top industry officials, contains 80% sugar and just 20% cane juice, the main ingredient in jaggery, unlike the jaggery from Kolhapur which contains 80% juice and 20%sugar. Kolhapur is the main market for jaggery in the country; it ranks first in qualitative terms and second in terms of quantity after Muzaffarnagar.
According to Vikram Vilas Kale, president, Shahupuri Merchants Association, also known as Kolhapur Jaggery Traders Association, the number of jaggery making units has come down to some 400 from the 2,500-odd units several years ago. It remains chiefly a cottage industry, which has been fighting the onslaught of chemically-prepared jaggery available at cheaper rates (cheaper by 10-15%). Arrivals have dwindled to 20-25 lakh rave ( 10 kg packs) for the season from the 50-55 lakh rave in the earlier years. Of the jaggery manufactured in the Shahupuri jaggery market of Kolhapur, 80% goes to Gujarat, the top consumer, but since the cheaper jaggery is available in Sangli, traders from Gujarat have been going there, jaqgery makers pointed out.
Jaggery -making continues to remain a cottage industry and this has helped jaggery makers here to retain that unique taste and aroma, since it is made entirely manually by small units in this region, Kale pointed out. The units have been facing problems due to chronic labour shortage and shortage of sugarcane. Since most of the units fall under the small and medium enterprises sector, they lack the muscle to sustain their losses and continue operations, he explained. Moreover, cheaper jaggery from Karnataka is now available in Sangli — one of the major markets for jaggery.
At present, sugar mills in the district are paying about R2,600-2700 a tonne, while jaggery-making units pay about Rs 2,500-2,600 per tonne. On the other hand, farmers also have to bear the cost of sugarcane transportation, which works out to Rs 400-500 a tonne. Therefore, the farmer makes less money by selling his sugarcane to the units, he said. Since the product is seasonal in nature and its production takes place only during November to April in a year, storage also becomes an issue.
Gujarat, Rajasthan and Mumbai are the main markets for jaggery and the jaggery from this region is also exported to West Asia and the Gulf, especially where the Indian diaspora resides, he said. The traders association, which has over 200 members, has been seeking restrictions on the entry of cheaper varieties from other states. A demand for a jaggery cluster has also been pending.