The first ever effort by a government-backed body to procure raw coconut through Krishi Bhavans (agricultural offices attached to panchayats and other local bodies) is being described as a success among farmers, with the Krishi Bhavans buying 11,000 tonnes of raw coconut over a period of three months, starting February.
The procurement price of Rs.16 a kg has helped prevent a slide in market price for raw nuts, claimed a senior official of Keralakera Karshaka Sahakarana Federation (Kerafed), the apex cooperative body leading the ambitious procurement drive backed by a budgetary provision of Rs.100 crore.
The official said that spot raw coconut price is between Rs.12 and Rs.13.5 a kg and Kerafed procurement price was a bulwark against possible price slide.However, coconut farmers like T. K. Mohammed in Palakkad has questioned the sustainability of the project, which will result in huge losses because the price offered by the government will not be viable for private millers.
He also called for a smoother process of procurement, which would help the farmers. Now it involved booking your turn at the respective Krishi Bhavan on the two days of the week on which nuts will be procured. The farmers bear the transport cost and also face possible delays in getting bank cheques.
Some of the Krishi Bhavans have also reported mounting stocks of raw coconuts causing storage problem as milling operations have been curtailed by a lack of sufficient number of dryers across the State.
A procurement officer with Kerafed countered both these allegations claiming that payments to farmers have been prompt over these three months. The official also admitted that some of the stocks piled up because of a lack of sufficient dryers. But now the problem has been solved and all stocks would be cleared within a week. More dryers are being secured in places like Karunagappally, Attingal, Malappuram and Kozhikode.It was also pointed out that some of the more interior areas of districts faced shortage in storage space because of the arrival of stocks of paddy seeds, supplied free by the department of agriculture in view of the drought-like conditions in many paddy-growing regions.
The senior Kerafed official said that all raw coconut stocks in village krishi office would be moved to dryers being rented out even from private parties in various places across Kerala.