Pickle manufacturers in Panipat, one of India’s largest hubs, are unable to meet the rising demand following relaxation of curbs as the lockdown curtailed their activities from April to June, the main season for the manufacturing process.
As many as 15 to 20 manufacturers said that they are facing at a crisis due to the exodus of migrants and restrictions on transport during the last three months. They said that procurement of fruit was hit due to the lockdown curbs and they have been left unprepared to meet the current demand, which has also put thousands of jobs at stake.
They said it would take them a year to return to normalcy, due to challenges in meeting demands across the country, besides exports to the US, UK and other countries.
“We depend on migrant labourers, as the locals are not willing to work. We had to shut production for more than two months as most of the workers had gone home for Holi and were unable to return due to the lockdown,” said Pankaj Dhingra, owner of Pachranga Foods.
“We are facing labour and transportation problems as train movement remains restricted,” he said, adding that orders have started coming in from international customers.
To deal with the situations, manufacturers demanded relief from 12% GST on their products, as workers and farmers working for the industry had been affected by the pandemic. “Pickles are like vegetables for the poor and taste boosters for the rich. Around 50% of our products are consumed locally and 50% is exported to other states and abroad,” said Jitender Juneja, owner of Popular Achar.
Om Parkash, who has been in the pickle business since 1984, said government restrictions, including 12% GST, has hit manufacturers, forcing many out of business. “There are problems with raw material procurement as farmers do not sell their products directly to the manufacturers and we have to buy it from traders,” he said.
Pickle outlets were also not receiving enough footfall. “Like dhabas, pickle outlets also remained closed for three months during the lockdown. Even now, though the eateries are open, no one stops to eat because of fears of contracting Covid-19,” said Rahul Dahiya, owner of a pickle shop on National Highway 44 near Gharaunda.
Chhattardhari, who ran an outlet on Jattal Road in Panipat city and had 14 varieties of pickles in stock, including mixed, mango, lime, green and red chillies, amla, carrot, radish, turnip, onion and garlic, said buyers are yet to turn up. “My two sons are completing undergraduate studies. The younger one is in holding coaching classes in Kota, Rajasthan, as I am finding it difficult to pay their fees,” he said.