Farmers want the government to procure the produce to help the ailing sector
With Pongal fast approaching, farmers in Kovilpatti region in Thoothukudi district are busy digging out palm sprouts (panankilangu) from their fields.
Before harvest, it is a custom for farmers to perform puja with paddy grains, vegetables, turmeric bunch, along with palm sprouts. The puja makes the celebration complete for Pongal, a quintessential Tamil festival, which falls on January 14.
The ‘State tree’ for Tamil Nadu is the Palmyra tree. Every partof the tree — neera (padhaneer), palmyra fruit (nongu), palm candy (panangarkandu), the fronds, the trunk — is used by people for different purposes, besides the edible portion.
There are lakhs of palmyra trees in Kovilpatti, Kamanayakkanpatti, Muthulapuram, Ayanvadamalapuram, Vembar, and Vilathikulam. Farmers here plant palm seeds by the end of the Tamil month of aavani. After the rainy season, by the Tamil month of purattasi, the palm sprouts will be ready for harvest. So, the time is ripe now for harvesting the sprouts.
According to a farmer, Maharaja, palm sprouts are believed to have medicinal properties and they are tasty too. Hence, they are much sought after. A bunch of 25 palm sprouts is sold for about ₹80 by farmers.
He says those who are involved in palm farming have been shifting to other occupations, which provide better income, in the past 10 years. If the government procures the palm sprouts from the farmers and gives them Pongal gift hampers, it will help in protecting the ailing palmyra sector. It will also improve the economic conditions of a large number of poor palmyra workers.
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