Potters in Kozhikode worried over influx of ‘foreign’ products

Low-priced products with better finish from Palakkad and Tamil Nadu hit local sales hard

The proverb ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’ has come true for potters in Kozhikode district, making them rethink about continuing their line of work. On one side, the pandemic has hit them hard, and sales are at their lowest. Even the Onam market, which is their usual harvest season, has not been able to uplift their spirits, as the usual avenues for business are absent.

What worries them the most is the influx of ‘foreign’ products into the local market. T. Rajan, a traditional potter from Parambil Bazaar, blamed the better-finished and low-priced products from Tamil Nadu and Palakkad for the drastic decline in sales.

“Terracotta products from Palakkad and Tamil Nadu have better finish compared to what we make. It is not our fault but that of the clay that we procure. The clay available in Palakkad is much better and stronger compared to what we procure from Wayanad,” said Biju K.K., a potter from Vadakara. Besides, raw materials are available in plenty in Palakkad, while the local potters have to pay heavily for them. Since pottery has developed as an industry at a much larger scale in Tamil Nadu, those in that State can afford to sell the products at lower prices, while potters here are struggling to make both ends meet, he added.

Manikandan C., a potter from Palakkad, claimed that he had a medium-sized unit and employed a few to cater to the growing market. “I have small units in every northern district, where we sell terracotta products from Palakkad,” he said. However, the sale is comparatively low for them as compared to products from Tamil Nadu.

Potters complained that local buyers had no respect for their hard work, and that they could not compete with the bargaining skills of most people. “Buyers should realise that getting a terracotta product ready is a month-long labour. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare clay for moulding, around 20 days for drying after it is moulded, and another week to get it out of the kiln. And, we are forced to sell it at extremely lower prices owing to competition and extreme and unsympathetic bargaining,” Mr. Rajan said.

He stressed the need for innovative designs and unlearning and relearning the craft to suit modern standards for the traditional industry to survive.

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