THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Toddy shops in Kerala witnessed an unprecedented rush when they reopened on Wednesday for the first time after the lockdown was announced. Only a fraction of toddy shops could be opened in the state as production has been hit in the last couple of months.
The state government had earlier directed tappers to bring down the pots used to collect toddy from the top of coconut trees as part of the crackdown on the illegal sale of toddy during the lockdown. The break in continuous tapping coupled with the effect of the scorching summer has brought down toddy production to one-third.
Kerala has around 5,200 toddy shops of which 3,600 are active now with Palakkad alone accounting for around 805. Of the active toddy shops, only 530 were opened in Palakkad, while none were opened in Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Kannur. The tapped toddy brought to shops in Palakkad was sold out in a few hours with tipplers arriving in large numbers with bottles.
In some places in Palakkad, police had to intervene as consumers thronged toddy shops without masks and did not maintain social distancing. It is expected that toddy production will increase to its normal capacity in a couple of weeks with tappers beginning work in full swing now.
Apart from the paucity of natural toddy, there is a huge mismatch in the production and demand of toddy in Kerala. If the production is a little over 3 lakh per day, the actual consumption is more and the gap is filled by spurious toddy.
A consumer is allowed to buy 1.5 litres of toddy from a shop. If every customer buys 1.5 litres of toddy, only two lakh people can buy it. But in a state like Kerala, the number of tipplers runs into millions.