Poor flow in River Cauvery has led to severe shortage of korai grass which, in turn, has badly hit the korai mat industry in Salem district.
About 1,000 korai mat production centres are functioning in Kanjanayakkanpatti, Sikkanapatti, Tarapuram and Semmandapatti employing more than 15,000 workers.
Till a few decades ago, the mats were hand-woven due to which only a very few mats were produced in a day. Later, the manufacturing process changed and power loom units have been set up for the production of korai mats
They can produce about 300 mats every day.
The korai mats produced in Salem district have good demand in states including West Bengal, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Korai grass is raised in abundance in the villages situated on the banks of River Cauvery in Tiruchi, Karur and Namakkal districts.
Due to the failure of monsoon, there is very poor flow of water in River Cauvery for the past two months, which has affected the korai grass cultivation in Tiruchi, Musiri and Kulithalai.
According to Sivaji, owner of Sivaji korai mat production unit at Kanjanayakkanpatti Melmottur village near Omalur, the arrival of korai grass stock from Tiruchi, Karur and Namakkal districts has dwindled in the last couple of months.
This has led to steep increase in the price of korai grass.
The price of a bundle (kattu) of korai grass, which stood at Rs. 800 a couple of months ago, has gone up to Rs. 1,300 at present, he says.
The water situation in Mettur Dam continues to be very grim and further delay in the onset of north-east monsoon will prove a disaster to this industry.
The standing korai grass is expected to last only for the next two months, says Mr. Sivaji.
Despite the grass price going up, the price of mats could not be increased due to the fear of losing patronage. Even though the korai mat industry is fully concentrated in the rural areas, it does not enjoy any support from the government.
A cross-section of the korai mat weavers of Kanjanayakkanpatti pleaded with the government to extend the free power supply scheme, at present in vogue for the power loom industry, to the korai mat weaving units too.