Firecracker units in Sivakasi worried about dip in Diwali business amid high prices

Chennai: Local firecracker units in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district, which account for 90 percent of the firecracker business in the country, are worried as their business has fallen this season.

The firecrackers industry complains about high prices that have led to the collapse of business.

“I have a small wholesale and retail shop and used to do a business of Rs 60 to 75 lakh a year, but not anymore. This year, my sales fell to such a level that I could do a business of only Rs 15 lakh, which is very low compared to the previous business,” R. Selvaraj, president of Sivakasi Small Chip Distributors told IANS.

He said that during the Diwali season, a 40 to 50 percent increase in prices was observed. “In some cases it has catapulted to more than three times earlier levels.” In the last season, the price of a particular cracker was Rs 2,500, which is now charged at Rs 8,500 and this has naturally affected the business.”

According to him, this is mainly due to green crackers replacing the traditional barium nitrate crackers which have a shelf life of 10 years.

“Green crackers usually don’t have much shelf life and within months they become unusable as they draw huge moisture from the atmosphere reducing their durability and longevity and thus the entire batch is thrown away without any use.”

Sukumaran Natarajan, a fireworks businessman, told IANS, “The earlier firecrackers that were not used in the season were carried over to the next year and there was no problem. After the ban on barium nitrate laden crackers, we switched to green crackers and these crackers absorb more moisture, which results in the expiry of these crackers by a period of two to three months.

It may be noted that apart from longevity, barium nitrate filled crackers also produce a loud sound, resulting in high demand across the country for such crackers.

President of Sivakasi Firecracker Manufacturers Association (SIFMA), Asaithambi told IANS, “The decision to ban crackers loaded with barium nitrate should be reversed. This has led to the shutdown of 80 percent of the units in Sivakasi and Virudhunagar and we are witnessing huge losses due to this.

There are about 1,070 firecracker units in Virudhunagar district employing over six lakh workers.

Another issue plaguing the firecracker industry is the ban on chain crackers, including ‘1000 Walas’, which was a big hit among children and adults.

R. Ramohan, who runs a wholesale distribution shop in Sivakasi, told IANS: “The industry is loss-making and many units have closed, several people have lost their jobs due to this and our industry is on the verge of complete closure.”

“Sivakasi firecracker manufacturing was meeting the requirements of most of the firework lovers in the country but now we cannot go ahead and it is better to close now,” he added.

Virdhunagar district collector Meghnath Reddy was not available for comments, but a senior officer in the district administration told IANS that they were looking into the losses incurred by the industry in the country’s “firecracker capital”.

As Diwali is the most important time when crores of business is done, the green cracker replacing barium nitrate laden firecrackers has resulted in a setback for the industry.

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