Its festival time and the food that is served on a fresh banana leaf is of special nature. All the nostalgic Malayalis and Tamils in Dubai and other West Asian countries can look forward to doing it just like home with a huge consignment of banana leaves arriving straight from the Verdant Cumbuum valley. In Dubai during April the demand for banana leaves is high and exporters from Kerala thronged the valley to buy them in bulk. “We collect only fully matured, country banana leaves,” said V. Sudhakaran, a leaf exporter at Sukkangalpatti village. “The leaf should not have any black dots or yellow spots. It should be dark green. Workers grade the leaves, process and pack them in cartons at the farms and transport them to Cochin airport for export. The leaves will hit the Dubai market within 24 hours.” South Indians in West Asia prefer the bananas from the farms in Chinnamannur and nearby villages. The plantain leaves from the Cumbuum valley have also become much sought after particularly in Dubai. “The domestic market will not be affected much by the exports as we send matured leaves,” Mr. Sudhakaran said. “Local people prefer tender light green leaf of any variety of banana. But we prefer fully matured leaves as they have a longer shelf life. We will send one tonne of leaves to Dubai every day, till the weekend.” Even during Christmas leaves are brought in large numbers. “We sent a small quantity last December. But we have a bulk order for this year’s Vishu. We procure the leaves from Kullapuram in Periyakulam block to Goodalur near Lower camp at Rs. 2 per leaf,” Mr. Sudhakaran said. To maintain quality, farmers were advised to grow the plantains densely near farm borders to protect those in the farm from strong winds. Flowers are also exported to countries in West Asia as they form part of the ‘kani’ display of auspicious articles for Vishu, while hotels in the region deliver the ‘sadhya’ feast to a large number of families at home.