Importing energy

Paraffin wax from Iran is lighting up homes in Kashmir as candle manufacturers prefer it for its superior quality and lower prices. Abdul Mohamin reports

India buying energy through an Iran-India gas pipeline may be a distant dream, but a constant source of energy lighting up homes in the valley is imported from Iran. Paraffin wax that is the main ingredient in making candles is being imported from Iran.

Candles may still be holding an edge over other sources of lighting as it there is shortage of electricity and gas in Kashmir during winters. Most of the supplies go to villages, say candle manufacturers adding, that during winters the demand shoots up everywhere including urban areas.

Syed Ahmad who runs a candle manufacturing unit at Srinagar says that, even with electricity reaching every village and other lighting gadgets available, paraffin candles “may still emerge as one of the most common lighting source in the valley”.

Ahmad says that it is difficult to gauge the amount of candles Kashmir may be using as the local manufacturers cannot fulfill the need with just over twenty units manufacturing candles in the valley. The demand is met by imports from Jammu based units while other states also push in with their supplies to suffice the ever increasing demand in winters, he adds.

Many household units mostly run by women too pump their supplies in the market during winters.

Industry experts say that annual candle business is around Rs 20 crore in the valley with local manufacturers including household units having around fourty percent of the market.

Be it the large-scale manufacturers or household units their choice is wax from Iran. The focus on using paraffin wax from Iran, is, manufacturers say, primarily because of Iranian one sells at a lower price and is of better quality.

Candle makers say that for providing their products at competitive prices, they now largely depend on supplies from Iran that sells at a lower price than the wax sold by Indian oil companies. Ahmad said that Indian candle manufacturers also use paraffin from Iran and we get it Rs 15 less a kilogram than the one sold by Indian oil companies with the current price hovering around Rs 80 per kilogram for the Iranian one.

One of the manufacturers who wanted to remain anonymous said that, paraffin that is a by-product of petroleum distillation was earlier provided to local manufacturers by state government and most of it would come from Indian Oil Company refinery at Digboi plant “Paraffin Wax is not produced by all refineries and only those which have special facility to produced this can manufacture this by-product,” he said adding that IOC Digboi plant wax is still a much sought product, but being a bit costlier, than the Iranian one, with manufacturers giving preference to the latter.

The manufacturers say that most of the raw material is procured from Indian importers and the supply is always sufficient, even though its pricing is always volatile as is for other petro products.

The fluctuating price of the raw material according to manufacturers is the reason why customers get lighter weight candles as to maintain price the manufacturers reduce the weight of the candles.

The manufacturers say that they usually manufacture candles priced at Rs 2, Rs 5 and Rs 10 and to maintain this price they have to reduce the weight of the candles.

For this lighter product the manufacturers say that they adjust their machines to produce short version of candles that however have a disadvantage of burning for less time.

 This option however is not available with many of the candle manufacturers who make them at home.

Many women who took to candle manufacturing as household craft used only preset casting moulds to manufacture candles, where adjusting weight is not possible and many have now run into losses.

Maimoona Akhtar, who took to this profession and sold mostly to hawkers, said that the wax prices where never stable and their moulds could only produce a set weight and thus we suffered losses many times.

 Ahmed said that people still are interested in making candles and many do visit their unit to learn the trade. Ahmed is confident that manufacturing this prduct is will give good returns, and given the available market one can earn handsomely.
“The only worry is that supply of the raw material must remain unhindered as an embargo on petro products from Iran can land us in difficult times,” he quipped.

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