Chemical taint spells doom for jaggery business in western UP
arun Kumar, a jaggery trader of Muzaffarnagar Gur Mandi in Uttar Pradesh (up), has fallen upon hard times. "During the past decade, the gur (jaggery) business has slumped by two-thirds," he laments. His brother, Roshan Lal, who is the secretary of the mandi union too feels the situation is hopeless: "The future of jaggery trade is bleak in up." What appears to have sounded the death-knell for the business in the state -- despite the Muzaffarnagar Gur Mandi being the largest in Asia -- is the alarming frequency with which chemical contaminants have been detected in jaggery.
Following complaints to state agriculture minister Hukum Singh about the indiscriminate use of chemicals in making gur, a survey of the jaggery-producing units was ordered. The deputy director of agriculture, Soraj Singh, inspected five such sites in Basera. His findings were startling: manufacturers were using sodium hydrosulphite, super phosphate, decolite, urea, soft stone powder and ammonium bicarbonate during gur production.
A few studies conducted by the up Council of Sugarcane Research (csr) and Cane Research Institute in Lucknow and Muzaffarnagar throw some light on the matter. They state that an overdose of chemicals in sugarcane farming and gur manufacturing has made the final product toxic.
"Jaggery manufacturers use 10 to 15 times more chemicals than the prescribed limits," reveals joint director, csr, M L Sharma, who surveyed around 600 villages. According to him, the traditional method of cleaning jaggery with organic agents has been replaced by the process involving chemical agents. Gur manufacturers are using large quantities of sodium hydrosulphate to clean sugarcane juice, observes Sharma. While csr stipulates 10 grammes of the chemical for 10 tonnes of juice, Sharma found out that the traders were using 50-100 grammes of the chemical. It may be noted that sodium hydrosulphate makes gur acidic. A P Agarwal, former director of Cane Research Institute, warns: "The heavy chemical content will take a silent toll on the people's health."
Contaminated gur driving western UP's market down
Forty per cent of jaggery units have shut shop
Faulty policy partly responsible.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.