Drumstick is a ubiquitous plant and all its parts like flower, leaf and Moringa are of abundant benefit to us. Since it contains many nutrients that our body requires, it is in high demand throughout the world.
Telson of Thirunelveli is in the practice of exporting drumstick leaves to other countries. As mentioned above, the drumstick is exported in many forms to other countries. Telson’s farm is situated in Kadakulam village which is about 6 kms. from Thisayanvilai. Telson had his education only up to VIII standard after which he joined his father in his farm. In the meantime, he had an opportunity to join an export company that was engaged in exporting vegetables to other countries. However, he lost his job when retrenchment took place. But he had learnt the method to export vegetables like plantain, gooseberry, small onion, drumstick, tender coconut and other vegetables. At that time, he got an order from London to send drumstick leaves. For the first time, he had sent 5 kg. as a sample which was very much liked by them. Gradually the order increased and he started concentrating on the export of drumstick leaves by reducing other exports. Now, he has been able to export drumstick to other countries for nearly about 25 days a month.
Telson has used 5 acres of land for drumstick under organic method. Last year he had taken 30 acres of drumstick plantation under a lease . Instead of doing the same practice this year, he has shifted to buying drumstick leaves @ Rs.15/- per kg. He is particular about buying the drumstick leaves which are grown under organic method only. He will check the quality of the drumstick leaves by keeping it as it is after plucking for an hour and then shake it to find out whether the leaves fall off or stick to the stem intact. If they do not fall off, they are of good quality. The plucked leaves will be put in a polythene bag and kept in an ice box for 24 hours. If the leaves do not become stale, they are again considered to be a good kind. These are some of the preliminary exercises that he does in order to satisfy himself regarding the quality.
Telson has employed 35 women for plucking operation. They will assemble at 5 am in the morning and they will be taken to the field by a van. The plucking operation will be completed by 7 am. They will pluck only the dark green leaves and not the light green. Similarly, they will not pluck the leaves from the plants but only from the trees which will be fit for export. The plucked leaves will be bundled in a cotton cloth and brought to the packing hall.
They will spread a tarpaulin sheet and sprinkle water and line up the plucked leaves up to ½ ft. height. They will sprinkle water on them so that they will be green. They will remove the dry leaves and flowers before packing them in a polythene covers weighing 150 gm. each. Packing is a long process. Then they will put 3 ice packs in a thermocoal box of 65 lt. capacity; place non-absorbable sheet of paper over it and stack 25 packets of leaves. Again ice packs must be spread and 25 bundles of leaves will be stacked. As a third layer, they will again place ice packs and keep 10 bundles of drumstick leaves. Thus each box will contain 60 bundles, 11 ice packs and 5 layers of paper. Telson exports nearly 400 kg. drumstick leaves every day.
Telson exports the drumstick leaves to Dubai, London, Qatar and Oman for 25 days a month. He has to go to Thiruvananthapuram or Trichy airport for booking the parcel. The leaves will be airlifted to the concerned countries immediately. He sends to Dubai for 10 days, Qatar for 8 days, Oman for 5 days and London for 2 days in a month.
On an average, he is able to export 10,000 kg., i.e. 400 kg. each for 25 days and get an income of Rs.4,00,000/-.After adjusting the expenses like rent, plucking about, packing, transport, infrastructure like thermocool box, ice packing, electricity and air freight charges, amounting to Rs.2,70,000/-, he is getting a profit of Rs.1,30,000/- in all.
Telson openly shares that he has to incur more time and expenditure because he is compelled to go to Kochi packing house for export for getting customs approval as this facility is not available in Tamil Nadu. If this customs clearance is made available in other centers in TamilNadu also, he will be able to save lot of money and time besides providing job for another 100 persons.
Samikannu is engaged in similar business in Molianur near Pappireddypatti village in Dharmapuri district. He has 4 ½ acres of land in which he uses 2 ½ acres for drumstick cultivation. He removes the side branches from September to December months during which time he will get around 10-12 tonnes of leaves. He is able to sell @ Rs.7/- per kg to the exporters, thus getting a surplus amount of Rs.84,000/- per year. He maintains his farm in such a manner that he is able to get both leaves and drumsticks simultaneously.
Samikannu further says that he is planning to sow drumstick plants more for leaves as there is a considerable demand for the same. He feels he will be able to get still more if the leaves are dried and sold. He has already taken some efforts in this direction by coordinating with several farmers for the arrangement of a solar dryer. The actual exporter of Samikannu’s drumstick leaves is currently sending them to Singapore, Malaysia and Dubai. He grows both drumstick plants and trees. He concludes that the demand for drumstick plants’ leaves only is more in his area of operation.
Thus drumstick leaves have so much of commercial potential and it is obvious that if Telson’s suggestions are considered for implementation, the export revenue out of this will multiply.
(This article written in Tamil by E Karthikeyan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine issue dt 25/6/18 has been transcreated in English by P.S.Ramamurthy)