Welcome to Thoothukudi, a small seemingly insignificant town in the South East of India. This little town’s port in the State of Tamil Nadu dates back to the 6th century and has been ruled by the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British.
What makes Thoothukudi fascinating is the role it plays in India’s supply chain and the insight it gives into the ups and downs of rural life post the South Asian Tsunami.
The firm of V.P.S.A. Paramasivanadar & Co. is the sole supplier of red chillies to the likes of McCormick and Pizza Hut in the U.S. The entire fourth generation family lives along one small, clean street in the small town of Virudhunagar. Farmed tuna the world over is colored red using chilli water!
Every year India imports thousands of tonnes of cashes nuts from West Africa. The cashews are peeled in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and re - exported to roasters in Europe and the U.S. who then sell them under their own brand names (Blue Mountain being a case in point).
Each year Indian Customs feels the need to ‘inspect’ several hundred tonnes of cashew nuts, which it then sells into the black market. These cashews are used for the production of macaroons, which are one of Thoothukudi’s principal exports.
Post the tsunami in Asia in 2004 a large part ofcoir production, used for doormats and mattress fillings, shifted from Sri Lanka to Tamil Nadu, as palm groves in Sri Lanka were wiped out.
Windmills imported into India all enter via the port of Thoothukudi, including the huge towers (see photo on left) and the blades, and then trucked up through the rest of India.
The local shrimp exporters complain that the catch is low. The reason? Indian fishermen are having trouble fishing near Sri Lanka’s borders since the defeat of the LTTE, which apparently allowed Indian fishermen unfettered access to their waters.
The high grades of Indian shrimp are exported to Japan and the lower grades to southern Europe.
The town of Sivakasi has India’s largest match manufacturer. The owner gambled on the growing need for matches (!) and bought up the second hand machinery of European manufacturers. Now his outfit produces 1.6 million matches an hour, for export to Europe and the U.S. Working conditions are less than European, with very high noise levels, as I pointed out to the owner.
And finally a bit of serious news:
"Mayor Rearranges Chair"
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.