Tough time for essence units in Ganjam

The kewda industry in Ganjam district is facing tough time with a slump in its demand because of a host of reasons, including restrictions on the sale of gutkha, poor market and introduction of the GST among others.

By Sunil Patnaik in Berhampur
  • Published 12.09.18
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Poor business: Workers sort flowers for processing (top) and (above) copper containers at a kewda distillation unit in Ganjam. Pictures by Gopal Krishna Reddy

Berhampur: The kewda industry in Ganjam district is facing tough time with a slump in its demand because of a host of reasons, including restrictions on the sale of gutkha, poor market and introduction of the GST among others.

The kewda flowers of Ganjam are essential used to prepare ittar (a fragrant perfume), oil for gutkha and pan masala as well as some ayurvedic medicines. The oil is also used in preparation of biryani and rasagolla.

Almost 90 per cent of the kewda trees grow in Ganjam, especially in four coastal blocks, including Chhatrapur, Rangeilunda, Ganjam and Chikiti.

"While the rate of one kewda flower had been Rs 15 to Rs 20 few years ago, a firm owner now pays only Rs 7.50 for each flower," said Laxman Behera, a flower collector of Gopalpur area. The flower pluckers have also lost interest because of the low pricing of the flowers, he said.

The scent of kewda flower is used in sandalwood oil whereas the kewda essence is used for adding flavour to mouth fresheners and food products.

"The oil, after the gutkha ban, is being transported to cities such as Delhi, Kanauj and Kanpur to prepare pan masala. Here, many firm owners have leased out their units to others after incurring losses. People from Kanauj can be seen managing the units in Ganjam these days," said a small unit owner, Himanshu Prasad Rao.

The number of units in the district is about 200 with 10 workers each on an average. The demand of the essence was decreased by a considerable 30 per cent after the ban on tobacco.

"After purchasing the flowers from farmers, the distillers produce the essence and have to sell it to the buyers from other states. But, the buyers are purchasing the essence on their own terms at a very less price. Consequently, the distillers and farmers have to bear the loss," said Pompi Jain owner of another unit at Venkatraipur. "We are having the essence stocks now, but are searching for the buyers."

Besides, the kewda flower growers and the kewda distilleries in Ganjam district are a worried lot because of the increase in use of synthetic essence by the pan masala manufacturers. One kilogram of natural kewda essence costs around Rs 2,20,000. But, synthetic essence of kewda prepared through chemical process costs only Rs 30,000, sources said.

A kewda tree grows up to 18 feet while its flowers are collected thrice a year. About 60 per cent of the flowers are collected between July and September and 30 per cent in May-June. The balance is collected during October-November.

According to the processing procedure, the flowers and water are boiled for three to four hours with fuel wood in a large copper container which accommodates 700 to 1,000 kewda flower. The steam is then transferred to another small container, which is later used for preparing oil.