Small entrepreneurs’ exhibition in Jaffna

20 Oct

As reported on in a previous issue, the Nucleus Foundation and USAID have been promoting exchanges between industries, particularly small scale industries in the North and South.
The latest of these collaborations was a trade fair held at the Jaffna Central College by both Southern and Northern micro-entrepreneurs recently.

Sea food was one of the most popular stalls - obviously. What was the hottest selling item? Dried cuttlefish.

Sea food was one of the most popular stalls – obviously. Their hottest selling item is dried cuttlefish apparently.

The next fastest moving sales seemed to be at the batik stall. Everyone is united in their love of batiks – whether for shirts, sarongs or dresses.

IMG_20141018_131433

Meanwhile the erstwhile palymrah industry has a hard time re-inventing itself to keep up with locals’ taste for the new and modern, although it apparently has a fair market down south as well as abroad.

IMG_1809

But they do keep trying. Here is Palmyrah fruit pulp, extracted so that you can easily make the trademark Northern savoury-sweet Panagai-paniyarum with it.

bottled palmyrah pulp

bottled palmyrah pulp

Why would a Northern housewife buy this product when she has access to the fresh fruit, I asked the sales rep.
“Because, the fruit is available only seasonally. It is also time-consuming to extract the pulp. With this, they can make their savouries any time of the year, and with much more ease,” he replied.

Plus they now have Palmyrah fruit jam as well.

IMG_1806

How does it taste?
“Just like any other jam but with a palmyrah-fruit flavour!”

IMG_1827

Next up were natural fruit based cordials – mangoes, papayas, pineapples, mixed fruit et al.

What’s the fastest moving cordial?

IMG_1830

“Nelli Crush,” says the Sales Rep

Ah yes, the signature Jaffna cordial, made from local gooseberries. Not many Northerners would have pantries without the lime-green cordial in their stocks. It’s a must-have in most homes here.

Dried and powdered wood-apple is also quite popular apparently

Dried and powdered wood-apple is also quite popular apparently

One of the micro-entrepreneurs who stood out was this young man from Battaramulla who had developed several products from used tamarind

Tamarind candy - one of our most popular items

Tamarind candy – one of our most popular items

According to him, the trade fair-goers loved his tamarind candy and sales were so good, he was considering establishing supplies to Jaffna. “I have ten products based on tamarind – tamarind sauce, candy, jam… even chocolate.”
How did he get the idea for his business?
“I come from a rural area where I see a lot of tamarind go to waste. So I investigated ways of stopping the wastage.”

Next up were some famous local Ayurvedic preparations that had become trade-marked and packeted.

IMG_1834

The Kurincha or Gymenma Sylvestre leaf,  has long been used to control diabetes in the peninsula.
“In Tamil, it is also known as chakara-kolli (sugar-killer) says the rep. “Many people in Jaffna have at least one of these plants growing in their gardens. It controls not only diabetes but also menstrual disorders.”

Apparently Professor K. Balasubramaniyam and other lecturers at the University of Jaffna had teamed up to study and promote local medicinal herbs such as the Kurincha and founded a public company, Bio Tech International Ltd, to put them out on the market.

Hair oil to promote hair growth

Cosmetic oil to promote hair growth

Another of their products was hair oil made from locally produced sesame seeds, seasoned with herbs such as Gotu kola, believed to enhance hair growth. It ought to have good sales. Many a local belle is still concerned with having the longest, blackest hair possible.

And finally the clay pots. There was once a time when local people universally stored their water in these clay pots, believing them to have the ability to purify and cool the water – much needed for a people living under a burning sun without access to refrigerators.

Now however, quite a few homes posses modern water treatment systems. Is the clay pot dying out therefore?

IMG_1832

Not at all says the sales rep. “People still buy our koosas (clay water pot). And we are keeping up with technology too. See? We even have a tap added.”

Yep! It was an interesting experience overall, viewing the intricate intermingling of the old and the new in Jaffna.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: