Chennai, Oct 6 (IANS): Local firecracker units in Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu that accounts for 90 per cent of firecracker business in the country are anxious as their business has dipped this season.
The firecracker industry has lamented the high prices that led to the plummeting of the business.
"I have a small wholesale and retail shop and I used to do business to the tune of Rs 60 to 75 lakh in a year but not anymore. This year, my sale has plummeted to such a level that I could do business to the tune of only Rs 15 lakhs, which is very low compared to the earlier business," R. Selvaraj, President of Small Firecracker Distributors of Sivakasi told IANS.
He said that a 40 to 50 per cent hike in the prices has been witnessed during the Diwali season. "In certain cases, it has catapulted to more than three times the earlier rates. During the last season, the cost of a specific cracker has been Rs 2,500 which is now being charged at Rs 8,500 and this has naturally affected the business."
According to him, this is mainly due to the green crackers replacing the traditional barium nitrate-laden crackers that have a shelf life of 10 years.
"The green crackers generally don't have much shelf life and within months they become unusable as they draw huge moisture from the atmosphere, bringing their durability and longevity coming down and thus their total lot gets waste without any use."
Sukumaran Natarajan, a firecracker businessman told IANS, "Earlier firecrackers that were not used during a season were carried over to the next year and there were no issues. After the ban on barium nitrate-laden crackers, we shifted to green crackers and these crackers absorb more moisture leading to the expiry of these crackers in a period of two to three months."
It may be noted that apart from longevity, the barium nitrate-laden crackers also produces high sound, bringing in high demand from across the country for such crackers.
Sivakasi Fireworks Manufacturers Association (SIFMA) President, Asaithambi told IANS, "The decision on banning barium nitrate-laden crackers has to be revoked. This has led to the shutting down of 80 per cent of units in Sivakasi and Virudhunagar and we are witnessing huge loss due to this."
There are around 1,070 firecracker units in Virudhunagar district, employing over six lakh workers.
Another issue that is plaguing the firecracker industry is the banning of chain crackers including '1000 Walas' which was a major hit among children and adults alike.
R. Rammohan, who runs a wholesale distribution shop at Sivakasi told IANS, "The industry is at a loss and many units have been shut down, several people have lost jobs due to this and our industry is on the verge of total closure."
"The Sivakasi firecracker industry was meeting the demands of most of the firecracker lovers in the country but we can't move ahead now and it is better to shut down now," he added.
Virduhunagar District Collector Meghnath Reddy was not available for comments but a senior officer with the district administration told IANS that they are studying the losses suffered by the industry in the "firecrackers capital" of the country.
With Diwali being the most important time, when the business being done to the tune of crores, the green cracker replacing barium nitrate-laden firecrackers has taken a setback for the industry.