Sugarcane business subdued this year

Sugarcane business subdued this year

Growers are in Bengaluru with their harvest, but business is low-key

K R Market has acquired a village-fair look in the run-up to Sankranti, with farmers from villages around Bengaluru bringing in their produce in time for the harvest festival.

Metrolife visited the wholesale hub of the sugarcane and groundnut trade two days before the festival, and found farmers with makeshift wayside shops waiting for customers. 

Many farmers from Hosakote and Chikkaballapur, in Bengaluru for the week, say business has dropped by at least 25 per cent since last year.

Nazeem Sheikh, sugarcane seller for three decades, says, “By this time, we sell quite a lot every year, but the stocks are not moving this time.”

Leftover sugarcane is usually sold to shops that sell sugarcane juice. 

This year, a bundle of sugarcane (10 sticks) is going for Rs 250 to Rs 300 and a pair of sugarcane sticks for Rs 50 to Rs 100.

Junaid Khan says he has to increase his prices because demand is low.  “The idea is to make some money even if we don’t sell all that we have brought in,” he says.

Kurubur Shanthakumar, president, Sugarcane Cultivators Association, says cane production is low this year. “Floods, especially in Belagavi and Bagalkot, have ruined crops. People are also not spending as much as they used to,” he says. 

Celebrations are low-key but families don’t give up on the age-old festive tradition. Surya Prakash, software professional with Tenneco Automotive, says Makara Sankranti is the time for families and friends to meet and exchange ellu-bella. “This ritual is called ellu beerodu,” he says. “This sweet mix symbolises peace and joy, despite differences.” 

He says people who meet on Sankrant follow the dictum, “Ellu bella thindu olle maathadi,” which means “savour the ellu bella and speak of things good.”

Transition time

Sankranti marks the first day of the sun’s transit to Makara, and is hence known as Makara Sankranti. This festival marks the beginning of the harvest season.

Online cane, ellu bella

This year, several online stores are selling sugarcane and Sankranti goodies. On Big Basket, you can order 200 g of diced sugarcane for Rs 35. A small length of sugarcane comes for Rs 7. ‘Ellu bella’ is available on Amazon in packs of 400 g at Rs 235.

Significance of dishes

Dr N S Raghavan, retired professor of English, Vijaya College, says the practices associated with Sankranti are an expression of joy at harvest time.

“Avarekai, pumpkin, raw groundnut, broad beans and sweet potato are used to make dishes specific to this festival,” says Dr Raghavan.

Items cooked and eaten this season are believed to be good for the body as the season’s transition from winter to summer, he says.

Huggi and sweet huggi (similar to pongal) are made with gram and rice, and cattle are decorated and paraded around the village, he says.   

What’s exchanged

The festivities include exchange of sugarcane stumps, sakkare acchu (sugar candy) and ellu bella, a delightful mix of coconut, jaggery, peanuts and sesame seeds.

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