Coconut farming is a source of livelihood for millions of farming families throughout India, but over the past decade, the coconut market has sharply declined. The Chief Minister is working on new initiatives to change their plight.
The Decline in Coconut Procurement
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) has closed procurement centers in several states over the past decade. “Banks are wary to give the money, because the copra prices have not improved. The banks want to know who would meet the gap between the procurement and the market prices,” sources said in 2001. Raw coconut procurement prices have continued to drop, along with the price of coconut oil derived from copra, and government policies were not in place to protect the industry.
Coconut Farmers Suffer
In 2012, coconut prices reached an all-time low, creating trouble in many states. Local governments throughout the nation started enacting programs to aid local farmers. Coconut oil brings the most value to farmers, but also requires expensive equipment that many small co-ops simply cannot afford. Government procurement programs have set higher prices for raw coconuts, but most are focusing on copras for coconut oil. Copra machines dry the de-husked coconuts to produce coconut oil.
Kerafed Announces New Procurement Scheme
634 Krishi Bnavans are responsible for Kerafed’s coconut production, but most of these farms lack the machines needed to produce copra. Because of this, Kerafed farmers were not benefitting from the national copra procurement program through Nafed. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is working on several programs that will improve coconut farming conditions in the state, including installing copra drying facilities. The state will subsidize coconut oil and may raise the local procurement price of copra, but Kerafed farmers will benefit most from the new de-husked coconut procurement program for the time being.
As more local governments step up to protect their coconut farmers, the existing cooperatives throughout India will become stronger and will improve the economy and their place in the export industry.