States plan geotextiles meet in April to ease coir’s COVID-19 blues

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Published: March 5, 2020 1:55 AM

Compared to the Rs 2,728-crore coir exports, India's domestic coir market-size is just Rs 1,200 crore. Of this, coir geotextiles, which has bulk applications in soil bio-engineering, like strengthening river banks, road-building and landfills, enjoys less than 40% share.

Kerala finance minister TM Thomas IsaacKerala finance minister TM Thomas Isaac

Even as COVID-19 has started niggling Indian coir’s Chinese trade, coconut-producing states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odhisha, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are pulling up their socks to scout for fresh markets for its most mass-ordered product — coir geotextiles. Kerala will host a geotextiles brainstorming session of states’ coir ministers in April.

“Coir geotextiles conference would focus on making a huge coir footprint on domestic market for geotextiles, not on its export market,” Kerala finance minister TM Thomas Isaac told FE. “After the deliberations of the conference are dovetailed into an action plan, we intend to knock on Union ministries of defence, railways, road and mining seeking collaborations on utilisation of coir geotextiles. National Highways alone could need 40,000 tonne of coir geotextiles, if there is a policy decision on this,” said Isaac.

Compared to the Rs 2,728-crore coir exports, India’s domestic coir market-size is just Rs 1,200 crore. Of this, coir geotextiles, which has bulk applications in soil bio-engineering, like strengthening river banks, road-building and landfills, enjoys less than 40% share. “The proposed conference would focus on bringing in more cost efficiencies in coir geotextiles production, by steps like shifting to brown fibre from white fibre,” said KR Anil, director, National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI). “Provided there are bulk orders, price can be brought down almost 50%,” he added.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 outbreak has hit coir pith trade, not coir geotextiles business. According to SK Gowthaman, member, Coir Board of India, it is a worrying scenario. China, which sources the coir fibre for several value-added products from Tamil Nadu, has stopped giving orders or even collecting consignments.

“Only the US, Europe and Australian orders for coir pith are on, in the Pollachi-based coir units. As for China, even the payment for the coir pitch exports from October is pending,” says S Mahesh Kumar, president, Coir Pith Exporters’ Association.

It is following the relative fall in margin in coir pith business since the entry of China into coir fibre value addition that states like Kerala shifted to geotextile production. By next year, Kerala targets to hike its coir geotextiles production to 25,000 tonne. In the current year, in forward integration plan for its coir products like mattings, the state government has signed procurement agreements with home products retailing giant IKEA and with Reliance.

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