KOZHIKODE: West Bengal, which floored the CPM politically, is now upstaging Kerala's own Dinesh Beedi, the CPM-controlled tobacco cooperative. West Bengal's low-priced beedis have penetrated the Kerala market as the GST has made Dinesh beedis unviable against the competitors that managed to keep out GST. More than two crore Dinesh beedis have piled up as monthly sales have dipped to 5.5 crore beedis from 8 crore pre-July. New players from Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have dug in their heels.
About 5,000 Dinesh Beedi employees, mostly women, are worried as the cooperative has cut working days from six to four a week. KDB secretary K. Prabhakaran told DC that the price hike due to GST has lured new players, including fake producers, who mimic Dinesh to the state. "For the last three months, the working days of the employees have been reduced to four days a week," he said and added that the women lost in total 40,000 working days in a month, causing a cut in their income.
While the cooperative sells a packet of 12 beedis for Rs 10, incurring a loss of Rs 3, the other state beedis are priced around Rs 10 for 20 beedis. The cooperative is in a crisis as it is forced to sell the beedis for around Rs 700 for 1000 beedis in the wholesale market whereas the profitable selling price, including 28 percent GST, comes to around Rs 1200, it was pointed out. The production cost itself is around Rs 900. "We have to pay Rs 500 for 1000 beedis here to the employees whereas it is around Rs 75 in West Bengal. Though there was a slight crisis earlier, this time it is much more serious", Mr Prabhakaran said.
Part of the nostalgia of the communist movement in the state, the cooperative was started in 1969 during the second EMS government. It was the late T.V. Thomas who launched it copying Ganesh Beedi, the Karnataka-based beedi making company. It shifted to Mangalore shutting down its units as the proletarian government insisted on paying standard wages for the employees. The beedi making unit had 42,000 employees spread in Kannur, Kozhikode and Kasargod districts in the 1980s....