Curry leaf, with botanical name ‘Murraya Koenigii’ is rich in healing properties since it is an antiseptic. Curry leaf is cultivated on about 4000 acres of land in the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam region on both sides of the Bhavani River. Villages in and around Mettupalayam are the largest producers of curry leaves in Tamil Nadu. This region cultivates 13.9% of the total cultivation of curry leaves in India. According to the local farmers, the curry leaf cultivation will fetch them hardly Rs.5000 per month from one acre.
Lavish use of endosulfan
Use of endosulfan as pesticide is quite common in these curry leaf farms. The growers of curry leaf say that they are compelled to spray endosulfan to protect the plants from tea mosquitoes and other harmful insects. Moreover, since the curry leaves are transported to far away markets such as Chennai, southern Karnataka and Kerala, bunches of the leaves are immersed in endosulfan solution to prevent damage by insects by the time they reach the market. The farmers say that each tree is sprayed with endosulfan minimum six times prior to harvesting. Thus the curry leaves from Coimbatore are no more antiseptic but hazardously toxic due to spraying of endosulfan which has been identified as a dreaded pesticide and is to be phased out globally from March, 2012.
Kerala, the potential market
The major part of curry leaves produced in Coimbatore is being sold in Kerala market. Ironically, in the recent past there had been many severe anti-endosulfan protests in Kerala. The US and other domestic countries stopped buying curry leaves from India since last few years due to more presence of pesticide residue. There is good demand for curry leaves in the domestic market.
Curry leaf farming – an outcome of pollution
Interestingly, the farmers of this region switched over to curry leaf farming a few years back after giving up the cultivation of grains and pulses. According to a report from the International Water Management Institute, the water in Bhavani River became contaminated with industrial effluents from the chemical factories situated by its side. The polluted water destroyed the soil fertility in this region and consequently the farmers could find no other options but, to initiate curry leaf cultivation.