Many manufacturers tried to tide over the situation by reducing the number of matchsticks in the boxes to 30 from the standard number of 50, but still, they could not manage.
- Almost 40 years ago, matchsticks used to cost a mere 25 paise, which then a decade or two later rose to 50 paise.
- The last peak that the matchstick box prices saw was around 2007 when the price was increased to Re 1.
- For the first time in more than a decade, the price has seen a double hike and will now cost Rs 2 per box.
- The humble matchbox, which defied inflation for the past 14 years, has now fallen prey to rising prices.
- A matchbox, now available for Re 1, will cost double the price from December 1.
- This is perhaps the only item used in our daily life whose price did not increase for 14 years. The last time the price was revised was in 2007 — from 50 paise to Re 1. Prior to that, the cost of each matchbox was increased from 25 paise to 50 paise in 1995.
- Matchboxes are ubiquitous among the Indian demography. Be it for household purposes, religious purposes, or personal reasons. What used to be an alternative to loose change is now double the price it used to be sold for.
- The first known use of matches was in 577 during the siege of a town in northern China. Women in the town used sticks coated with a mixture of chemicals
- Hennig Brandt was the first chemist (he called himself alchemist) who discovered properties of Phosphorus in 1669.
- Young Parisian Jean Chancel however was very interested into discovering easy to produce and safe to use wooden match.
- His 1805 method of causing violent chemical reaction that produced the fire consistent of dipping the wooden stick which was coated with mixture potassium chlorate, sulfur, sugar, and rubber into asbestos bottle filled with sulfuric acid.
- This solution came from John Walker, English chemist who in 1826 discovered first “friction match”.
- He combined mixture of sulfur and other materials that were coated on the wooden stick, and rugged paper that was coated with phosphorus.
- By running the match between folded paper, sulfur would ignite and set the stick on fire.
- He managed to sell numerous matches of this design during the next few years, but it became apparent that his chemical formula was not suited for widespread use.
- Sulfur coated tip of the stick often burned so strongly, that it managed to detach from the stick and destroy carpets and dresses of people who used it.
- Another big innovation in the history of matches came with the exploits of Charles Sauria, chemist who first managed to introduce mix white phosphorus in the match industry.
- Even though his mixture created during 1830s was incredibly potent and easy to ignite (even self-ignite), toxicity of white phosphorus caused outrage of people and government officials, who after several decade of use declared it banned.
- Creator of the most popular match design in the word is Swede Gustaf Erik Pasch (1788–1862), who with Johan Edvard Lundström managed to form the “safety match” – easy to use, cheap, and non-toxic match that did not have capability of self-igniting.
- By putting the phosphorus coating on separated location, small matches with their now famous red heads became instant hit all around the world.
- The origin of the safety match factories in Tamil Nadu dates back to 1922 when two workers Ayya Nadar and Shanmuga Nadar set up the first factories at Sivakasi.
- The two had worked at the factories of WIMCO, a Kolkata-based multinational company that had a monopoly over the trade at that time.
- The industry boomed as the south-central region was dry and agriculture was down due to lack of adequate rainfall.
- Over the years, many found it lucrative and the factories spread to neighbouring labour-intensive areas such as Kovilpatti and Sattur.
- The manufacturing units are categorised into hand-made, semi-mechanised and fully automated.
- The safety matchbox-making process involves frame-filling, dipping, box filling, label pasting and packing.
- Currently, each of the boxes contains 40 matchsticks and a carton contains 600 matchboxes each.
- The hand-made safety matches had vanished as machinery had come in handy for increasing the production, according to the manufacturers.
- The manufacturing of matchboxes relies on 14 key raw materials including potassium chlorate, red phosphorus, sulphur, potassium bichromate, wax, white splints, blue match papers, cardboards for inner and outer boxes,
- Woods used to make matchsticks must be porous enough to absorb various chemicals, and rigid enough to withstand the bending forces encountered when the match is struck.
- They should also be straight-grained and easy to work, so that they may be readily cut into sticks.
- White pine and aspen are two common woods used for this purpose.
- they are soaked in ammonium phosphate, which is a fire retardant.
- This prevents the stick from smoldering after the match has gone out
- the striking ends of the matchsticks are dipped in hot paraffin wax.
- This provides a small amount of fuel to transfer the flame from the burning chemicals on the tip to the matchstick itself.
- The striking surface contains red phosphorus, powdered glass, and an adhesive such as gum arabic or urea formaldehyde.
- When a safety match is rubbed against the striking surface, the friction generates enough heat to convert a trace of the red phosphorus into white phosphorus.
- This immediately reacts with the potassium chlorate in the match head to produce enough heat to ignite the antimony trisulfide and start the combustion.
TN leading manufacturer
- Currently, Tamil Nadu is a major supplier of matchboxes across the country and also a leading exporter.
- At least 320 manufacturing units of various sizes and over 1500-job work units function in the state providing jobs to more than 4 lakh people both directly and indirectly. Women constitute 90% of the workforce.
- The manufacturers said that more than 90% of the safety match factories are in Sivakasi, Kovilpatti, Kazhugumalai, Tenkasi and Sattur areas. Kovilpatti and Kazhugumalai in Thoothukudi district are a hub of safety match factories with Kovilpatti being the largest next to Sivakasi of Virudhunagar district, according to manufacturers.
- The match industry had faced difficulties in the past decade, with the biggest challenges being the implementation of demonetisation, Goods and Service Tax (GST), labour issues and the Covid pandemic, the manufacturers recounted. Matchboxes were the only product available for Re 1 in the market across India until now, they add.
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