A steady increase in coconut prices has given a new twist to the coconut sector which had been marked by low profitability for long. The retail price of coconuts has gone up to Rs.17-20 per nut. Fresh dehusked coconut is sold at Rs.27 per kg in wholesale market. Coconut oil prices are ruling above Rs.100 per kg.
A variety of reasons have contributed to the present phase of the coconut sector. The forthcoming Sabarimala season, when coconuts will be high in demand, is set to add further glitter to the sector. The prices of coconut may go up in the next two to three months, during the Sabarimala Mandalam-Makaravilakku season. The new phase presents a drastic change in the fortunes of the sector within 9 months.
Around March this year, the coconuts were being sold at less than Rs.10 a nut in the retail market when Nafed suspended its procurement over issues of reimbursement of subsidy allotted to the procurement agencies in Kerala. Copra was being procured at Rs.4,440 per quintal and coconut oil ruled at Rs.65 per kg then.
The present phase is temporary, says Coconut Development Board chairman, T.K.Jose. Production loss in the three southern States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is the main reason behind it, according to him.
The production was also less in certain districts of Kerala such as Kasargode, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram.
Yet another prominent reason is the large scale buying of coconuts by Tumkur-based coconut processors. But, the situation will return to normal soon as Karnataka has had good rains and the production will bounce back.
The intermediaries and not the producers are the beneficiaries of the present hike, he says. Mr.Jose is confident that coconut will not go the onion way. “The CDB has been watching the situation. The board had predicted the price scenario a few months ago.
“It is in the process of making arrangements to set up outlets for direct sale of coconuts by producers to consumers to counter any artificial spurt in prices.”
The prices of coconut oil had been going up in the post-Onam season, observes PGK Koshy, president of Cochin Oil Merchants’ Association.
He attributes the phenomenon to lower production, coupled with higher consumption. “Almost all edible oils are ruling high. Baking sector is using coconut oil in considerable quantities as the oil gives longer shelf life. Exports of coconut oil have gone up.