The upcoming Diwali festival is expected to be a dark one for the firecrackers industry at Sivakasi as nearly 30 per cent of the production is already down and new orders are being rarely placed. The recent order by the Supreme Court for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the use of barium nitrate in the manufacturing of firecrackers added more pressure.
Sivakasi accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the country's firecracker production. Around 1,070 firecracker units, mostly medium and small scale, are located in the district. About 300,000 workers are directly employed by the industry and another 500,000 workers are in the allied sectors.
"For Vinayaka Chaturthi good quantities of firecrackers would be sold in Maharashtra. But this year it did not happen due to lockdown,” said Rajendra Raja, Vice President, Indian Fireworks Manufacturers’ Association.
The production value of firecracker factories in Sivakasi is about Rs. 2,500 crore and the retail sales value may be about Rs.6,000 crore. The production value in the current year is estimated to be about Rs.1,800 crore.
"Nearly 100 days of production got lost due to Covid-19 lockdown. The factories were fully closed for 55 days. For the factories which have opened, workers availability is an issue due to lockdown and restriction of movement to and from containment," said Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association (TANFAMA) President Ganesan Panjurajan.
Now some units are functioning three days a week while many have shut down.
Industry representatives have maintained the state government has not called for applications for licence from shopkeepers wanting to sell firecrackers. With no takers, small fireworks units that have worked for over 35 days after a 43-day Covid-19 lockdown are staring at closure. Units here are struggling to pay their workers as huge stocks of finished goods have piled up have with no buyers.
"Across the country, traders are not sure whether there will be any business for crackers this year. Hence, they are not placing any orders. There are not even inquiries," added V Arun, Virudhunagar District Small Fireworks Manufacturers’ Association.
With only four more months remaining for Diwali, by now advance booking for fireworks would have been going on in full swing.