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Salem farmers demand ban on making of sago from maize, citing losses
Monday, 12 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi, Mumbai
The farmers in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district are demanding a blanket ban on the manufacturing of sago (sabudana) from maize, citing financial losses and adulteration. The protesting farmers also submitted a memorandum to the district magistrate recently, seeking a ban on such manufacturing.

Sago is considered a pure food item and is acceptable during fasts. And with Mahashivaratri round the corner, there is a surge in the demand for it. However, the situation has worsened this year due to the surplus production of sago. Farmers fear that there will be no demand for it until Shravan, which is five months away.

R Chandrasekaran, secretary and petitioner, Kalkurichi Vellalapatti Vevasaikal Munnatra Sungam, Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu, said, “Adulteration with maize starch has resulted in the surplus production and the drastic drop in the demand for sago. Over 15 lakh bags of sago, which were produced two years ago, are still in stock, and can be consumed for another two years.”

“Traders from different districts are producing sago in large volumes. Some traders are producing sago by mixing 50 per cent maize starch with 50 per cent tapioca starch. However, a few are making it from 100 per cent maize starch,” he added.

“Tapioca starch is an approved ingredient, and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued standards which endorse sago manufactured out of tapioca starch as a genuine product,” said Chandrasekaran.

“It is defined as tapioca sago as the product made from the tapioca starch obtained from the roots of tapioca (Manihot esculenta crantz syn Utilissima). Sago made from maize starch is sold at Rs 20 per kg, whereas that made from tapioca starch is sold at Rs 50 per kg,” he added.

Chandrasekaran informed, “There has been a sharp fall in price in the last one month. The farmers used to get between Rs 9,000 and Rs 9,500 per tonne. Thirty days ago, it dropped to Rs 7,500 per tonne, and the current price which the farmers are getting is Rs 7,000 per tonne.”

Giving details about the recent agitation by the farmers, he said, “Over 1,500 farmers met the district collector to discuss the issue regarding the malpractice of adulteration in the making of sago. The farmers were only given a 10-minute appointment to put forth their views. Their only request was to take strict action and stop the use of maize starch adulteration in sago.”

Over the last one month, the demand has considerably fallen across India due to adulteration. Consequently, the farmers are incurring heavy losses.

“One hectare of land gives 500 bags of sago, which is equal to 35 tonne. For one tonne, which is 1,000 kg, farmers is losing Rs 2,000. In total, a farmer is incurring a loss of Rs 70,000 per hectare. Most farmers have two to three hectare of land, and thus in a year, they are incurring a loss of Rs 2 to 3 lakh,” Chandrasekaran said.

“Since 2012, the farmers has been approaching various authorities to look into the matter of sale of chemically-processed adulterated sago to the consumers, but their demand has fallen on deaf ears,” he informed.
 
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