Kerala, which is totally dependent on supply of provisions from neighbouring states, now has packed and branded sand from Tamil Nadu to sustain its booming construction industry.
Packed in 50 kg polythene sacks, the Nachiyar brand of river sand from Tamil Nadu has hit the market.
The Nachiyar sand is a product of KNR. Minerals based in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. It runs three plants in Theni, Pollachi and Tirunelveli for cleaning and packing sand. The company caters to the Kerala market alone.
"The sand is cleaned and sieved and can be readily used. A sack of sand will cost Rs 75 in Kozhikode. The price differs in each district depending on the transportation cost," P Abdul Gafoor, a district dealer for the sand, told IANS.
One month after entering the market, the Nachiyar brand is selling around five truckloads of sand a day in Kozhikode district alone.
With the construction sector booming in Kerala, sand has turned into a scarce commodity. The government imposed strict curbs in the state to stop rampant sand mining and now, a black market in sand controlled by the mafia is thriving here.
"A year ago, the price of sand was around Rs 3,500 for a truckload (10 tonnes). Now, it stands at around Rs 9,500," said K. Joseph, a building contractor.
Joseph now brings sand from Mangalore in Karnataka, around 300 km north of Kozhikode. "The prices of Mangalore sand and the one procured locally are nearly the same. Mangalore sand is better in quality. The price of local sand is high as the sand mafia has to bribe officials and they also run the risk of seizure of consignment including the truck," he claimed.
"The Nachiyar sand comes in two qualities - hard and nice. The hard variety is for concreting, while the nice variety is for plastering. Both have the same price," said Gafoor.
According to the distributors, packed sand will eliminate the risk of spillage on transport and sand will not get mixed with impurities. There is also no need to clean and sieve the sand.
KNR. Minerals is currently supplying 25 truckloads of sand a day in Kerala. "Soon we will increase production and expect to supply 100 truckloads a day to Kerala," said PK Shahul Hameed, clearing and forwarding agent for the company.
The company is paying three per cent central sales tax and four percent value added tax for sand. "The Kerala government is getting around Rs 3 as tax for each sack of sand," said Gafoor.
Those in the construction industry feel that packed sand could become a hit in the Kerala market.