Of late, 65-year-old Gurusamy of Vellode rises early to pedal his way to the market. He buys the best of the tender coconuts in bulk and stations himself near the Periyar Nagar arch to start his business. He bicycles back home around dusk, after making a tidy sum.
Amsaveni, a middle-aged woman of Kasipalayam who sells the tender coconut from near a joint along the Chennimalai Road also toils as much – standing under the hot sun to sell the tender coconuts to customers. There are hundreds of such tender coconut retailers who make hay by selling coconuts while the sun shines harsh on the Erode residents.
There is not much overheads expenditure, as the tender coconut retailers carry out the business from roadsides. All that they require in initial investment is a few thousands rupees. And, of course, labour.
Coconut is grown on about 11,000 hectares in the district. From within the district the retailers prefer the tender coconuts from Thalavadi as they are better – they appear fully grown. They also get tender coconuts Pollachi and Theni, say the sellers.
The small tender coconuts that appear to have suffered pest attacks are sold for Rs. 20. The bigger ones fetch up to Rs. 35 a piece. The prices notwithstanding, tender coconut sellers continue to have a steady stream of customers, most of whom are health conscious.
Usually, the sweetness and taste of tender coconut water is better during summer, says R. Krishnamoorthy, former Joint Director of Agriculture.
Drought has affected the yield. But, fortunately, coconuts are free from eriophyid mite pest attack. Given the limited supply the retailers want to the make the most of it.
"There is no certainty that the supply chain will remain the same in a few years from now. The old generation involved in harvesting the coconuts will eventually fade out, and the younger generation is simply not interested in coconut cultivation, or, for that matter, in any facet of agriculture," the former official says.