Kochi: The Kerala government on Wednesday launched a coconut procurement scheme that would ensure that at least 2.7 million coconut farmers get a fair price and a steady and assured market in the state, government officials said.
Kerakarshaka Cooperative Federation (Kerafed), the apex body of cooperatives of coconut farmers in Kerala, has been authorized to procure dehusked (without the fibre) cut-open coconuts at Rs11 a kg.
To start with, the programme will be piloted in the main coconut-growing districts of Kollam, Alappuzha in the south, and Kozhikode and Kannur in northern Kerala. The government will provide Rs3.2 crore subsidy to the federation for implementing the programme.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India, (Nafed), the apex organization of a string of farmers’ cooperatives in India, is also considering coconut procurement scheme on similar lines.
According to statistics available with the government trade and cultivation promotion body, Coconut Development Board (CDB), the national annual production of coconuts is around 14,812 million nuts, with Kerala accounting for more than 40% of this.
Procurement demand by government agents has been in existence for sometime. The state government earlier proposed to procure around four crore coconuts at Rs4.40 per nut, but lack of uniformity in the size of the nuts forced the administration to collect dehusked coconuts, which were cut open and the water drained out.
At Rs11 per kg, the average price works out to around Rs4.50 a nut. The procured nuts will be dried and sold as copra (dry coconut without shell), or milled to extract oil.
Siby Monipilly, director of Nafed, said the federation, which has been receiving copra across the country when prices fell below the government’s proposed minimum support price of Rs36.20 per kg, is now ready to unveil a coconut procurement programme for Kerala, on the lines of Kerafed. The decision on the price and procurement strategy will be taken soon, he added.
The decision to procure coconut has partly been because of the lack of facilities to dry the coconuts. Nafed has sought the assistance of the coconut development body to have driers available to dry the fruits.
The procurement drive comes at a time when a controversy surrounding the shipment of an alternative edible oil—palm oil—into the state has not yet dried up.
While the Kerala high court last week lifted its stay on the government order to ban import of palm oil through the Kochi port, the arrival of palm oil in Kochi in rail wagons on Monday has kicked up a fresh row. Authorities have seized 1,820 tonnes of palm oil, which were transported by rail.