1. Dragon slaps mixed luck on Indian coir’s Rs 1,600-cr export agenda

Dragon slaps mixed luck on Indian coir’s Rs 1,600-cr export agenda

Coir and coir products are targeting R1,600-crore worth of exports in 2014-15, swinging on high demand...

By: | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: November 8, 2014 1:26 AM

Coir and coir products are targeting R1,600-crore worth of exports in 2014-15, swinging on high demand from China, despite the unresolved issue of coir husk raw material bottleneck in the main production centre of Kerala.
“India’s coir exports had brought foreign exchange worth R1,476 crore last year, and R1,052 crore and R807 crore respectively in the
previous two years,” says
G Balachandran, chairman, Coir Board.
China imported Indian coir yarn in bulk to produce coir value-added products that could be exported to India. But Chinese coir products made of Indian coir yarn, in the long run, throw adverse price-competition
to Indian coir value-added products like mattings and carpets.
China had last year replaced US as the biggest coir buyer from India. In 2013-2014, exports to China (in terms of volumes) constituted 36% of India’s coir export basket. While the US had bought coir and coir products to the tune of 55,091 tonne, China purchased as much as 192,110 tonne.
“It was only coir yarn exports that enjoyed 59% growth in 2013-2014, due to higher demand from China. The fact that demand in finished coir products is yet to catch up with coir yarn demand is a matter of concern,” Balachandran told FE.
Like China, Sri Lanka is also a competitor for India
in coir-based products from rugs, mattings, geotextiles and gardening material
coir pith.
India’s coir industry is disturbed about the production-side, as much as about the crosscurrents in the export-competition side. The scattered availability of coir
husk raw material for coir product manufacturers has been a sore issue for coir factories, centred in Alapuzha in Kerala. Though Kerala produces 600 crore coconuts per year, only 30,000 tonnes of
retted fibre per year is produced locally. Since husk
procurement and processing are more of an organised activity in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, most of the coir husk for Kerala coir factories is brought from Tamil Nadu. The transportation inflates production costs.
“A technological breakthrough to this sourcing issue would be the portable de-fibering machine developed and patented recently by NCRMI (National Coir Research and Management Institute ). This could facilitate husk extraction on site, eliminating the need to transport green husk,” says KR Anil, director, NCRMI. A single machine can process as many as 3,500 green husks per day. It could increase productivity and lower environmental pollution. About 1000 machines have been readied for production this year.
However, the coir fibre supply chain is yet to get established in the major production centres in Kerala. The state government had planned tie-ups between coconut farmer societies and coir societies to smoothen husk collection. Farmers
say the proposed scheme to supply the portable de-fibering machine to farmer societies at subsidised rates is yet to take root.
On the flip side, the price of a single huge unhusked coconut is as high as R25-35 in Kerala this season. The average farmer, therefore, is little bothered about enhancing this income with sale proceeds of the husk. But then, it aggravates the raw material sourcing issue of the coir industrialist, adding to his export worries.

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