Kerala targets R1,000-cr coir exports

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Dec 14 2011, 06:32am hrs
Close on the heels of a MoU with a major Saudi Arabian firm Al Afaq Al Amjad for coir geotextiles, Kerala has pegged up its coir export target to R1,000 crore from the present R850 crore.

To perk up this initiative, the State is going for the second edition of its international coir and natural fibres meet from February 4 to 9 in Alapuzha, near Kochi .

Coir geotextiles, which firm up construction of roads and embankments, have started picking up international demand. The recent exhibition of Kerala coir in Dubai had yielded over R10-crore worth orders for State PSU Kerala Coir Corporation.

About 120 international delegates from 35 countries are likely to participate in the buyer-seller meet, Kerala Coir Minister Adoor Prakash said. We are also leveraging the international tourism brand of backwaters, while placing the Coir Kerala 2012 in Alapuzha, he added.

The Indian market for coir geotextiles is also on ferment, after central government recently passed a directive, making the use of coir geo-textile mandatary, in the building of roads under Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana. Coir already enjoys a domestic market of about R1600 crore turnover annually.

Kerala Government had been organising buyer-seller meets in all major cities in the country to ramp up domestic sales. The first of these was held in Kolkata, yielding orders totalling R10 crore.

The biggest issue faced by the coir industry, giving livelihood to 3.75 lakh workers, is raw material crunch. Although the state produces about 6,000 million coconuts, green husk from less than 35% of this reaches the coir processing yards.

Asked if how far coir production in Kerala has suffered, after the Mullaperiyar dam protesters set fire on a bunch of coconut husk-defibering units in Tamil Nadu, run by Keralites, Rani George, Special Secretary on coir, said, the damages were yet to be assessed. The destruction of defibering units in Tamil Nadu was likely to reflect in the next months coir production in Kerala, she said.

However, it was mostly brown fibre, relatively less useful for coir production, that was sourced from Tamil Nadu coconut. The green fibre, which is the ideal choice, has to be dehusked from the coconut, within 15 days of harvesting.

A major policy shift has been the recognition of the weakness in the husk procurement chain. We are trying to bring in coconut husk procurement under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee programme. This way, incentives for collecting husk will be higher, drawing more people into procurement business, says Prakash.

The State had been checking out the price advantage of husk imported from Sri Lanka, compared to that of Tamil Nadu coconut husk. But then, in terms of white fibre from green husk, the superior quality was in Kerala coconut. This comparison has also added impetus to the drive to hasten a full-fledged raw material sourcing network locally.