No Thaipusam celebration, coconut demand drops

by BERNAMA / pic by BERNAMA

GEORGE TOWN – The enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) which has restricted Thaipusam processions and related activities this year, has put coconut suppliers in a quandary.

Suppliers of coconuts, an essential offering in the celebration, are incurring losses and are having to find other ways to market the pre-ordered coconuts.

Each year thousands of coconuts are broken by Hindus during Thaipusam along the eight kilometre stretch from Lebuh Penang to Jalan Kebun Bunga, near here, during the the Golden and Silver Chariots procession bearing the statue of Lord Murugan to fulfill vows during the festival.

Joel Jeyachandran, 36, who owns the coconut suppling outlet Joez Coconut, said the demand for coconuts for this year’s Thaipusam festival had plunged due to the lack of mass demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The demand for coconuts has dropped 100 per cent, namely, from 80,000 (last year) to zero this year. This situation is expected to drag on until the Chinese New Year festival and also Hari Raya,’’ he told Bernama when met at his premises in Jalan Datuk Keramat here, today.

He said, this was because temples would not be open for any religious ceremonies for the festival such as fulfilling vows by breaking coconuts.

“However, the demand for coconuts is normal for daily needs such as coconut milk, young coconuts and for drink products that we sell such as coconut shakes, coconut jelly and other products,” he said.

According to Joel, his company was forced to shoulder a huge loss as it still had to pay the coconut supplier in Bagan Datuk, Perak for 80,000 coconuts as stipulated in the contract but would seek to mitigate the loss by selling the coconuts.

Meanwhile, a coconut retailer met at Joel’s premises, T. Muthumanickam, 28, said he was struggling to keep the family business, which he had been running for the past 30 years, afloat in the absence of demand.

“Business is very slow due to the pandemic. I was also forced to lay off two workers (because I could not pay their wages),” he said.

On Jan 8, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Prof Dr P. Ramasamy stated that for Thaipusam, which falls on Jan 28, the chariot procession in the state may be cancelled this year and urged Hindus to stay home on that day to curb the spread of COVID-19.