Udupi, Feb 4, 2018: Since a few months now, the gradation of the famous and taste wise unique ‘mattu gulla’ (otherwise known also as eggplant, brinjal), which has secured the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, its growers have seen their sales and profits double.
The seasonal vegetable, available from mid-October to mid-June, is cultivated by 160 farmers on about 120 acres of land at Mattu and Kaipunjal villages of Udupi district. Last year, they formed the Mattu Gulla Belegarara Sangha (MGBS) to do away with middlemen and sell the vegetable directly in the market.
While there has always been good demand for ‘mattu gulla’ in the local markets of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, the demand in external markets such as Mumbai and Bengaluru has also gone up since the gradation began. Alongside, the production of ‘mattu gulla’ has increased from two tonnes a day last year to three tonnes a day this season. “We are selling about three tonnes daily now and sometimes we do not have enough gulla to match the demand,” Dayanand V. Bangera, president of MGBS, who also cultivates ‘mattu gulla’ in 26 cents of land at Mattu, said.
The sangha purchases ‘mattu gulla’ for Rs. 25 a kg from the growers, and markets it for about Rs. 35 a kg, which is the wholesale rate. The price fluctuates with demand and supply in the retail market. Grade I ‘mattu gulla’, with stickers that say so, is available from Rs. 60 to Rs. 100 a kg, sometimes even more. Grade II (without stickers) sells for Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 a kg. “On an average, we now transport about 500 to 800 quintals of ‘mattu gulla’ to Bengaluru and Mumbai every day, and occasionally up to 1 to 1.5 tonnes,” said Laxman M., manager, MGBS. Mr. Laxman too cultivates it on an acre of land at Mattu.
“Gradation and stickers ensure people don’t confuse ‘mattu gulla’ with other locally grown gulla, which has increased the demand for it [the former],” says Bangera.
The two coastal districts remain major markets. “Last year, we used to get Rs. 5 a kg as profit, but now our profit has doubled. There has been some increase in expenses too, such as the fixing of stickers,” Laxman said.
The rate for ‘mattu gulla’ is fixed and maintained across markets by the MGBS. But customers in Mumbai and Bengaluru pay more because, “the transportation rate per 40 kg bag varies from Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 for Mumbai and Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 for Bengaluru,” said Laxman.
Legend has it that about 400 years ago, Sri Vadiraja of Sode Mutt, one of the Ashta Mutts of Udupi, gave the seeds of this specialbrinjal to farmers of Mattu. Since then, farmers offer ‘mattu gulla’ to Sri Krishna Mutt/Temple during the ‘Horekanike’ of the Paryaya festival. They also offer a portion of their first crop annually to Sri Krishna Mutt/Temple.