There is a demand for trained coconut pluckers, which is not adequately met with

Sight of bunches of ready-to-harvest coconuts hanging from the palms should have gladdened coconut farmers in villages and people with coconut trees around their homes in the city now that the price for coconut is up after years of bad spell. But reverse is the case in reality.

Coconut growers are bothered about the acute shortage of pluckers both in the city and in the villages. The shortage of climbers was clubbed with the low price of the nut till recently. But things have suddenly changed with the coconut price hitting an all-time high in the market. There is a demand for trained coconut pluckers, which unfortunately is not adequately met with.

There are many like Ayishabi of Krishna Nagar Colony near Nallalam in the city, who has been trying to get a climber for the half a dozen of palms around her house for the last two months.

“We tried many times to get someone through different contacts, but without any luck,” says Ayishabi, who doesn’t allow her little grandchildren to step out to the yard these days for fear of coconut unexpectedly falling on their heads. The situation is not any different for Balan Nair, a coconut farmer from Poolakkode village near Chathamangalam in Kozhikode. It is already two months since the last harvest at his three-acre grove. Coconuts are falling every now and then from his 100-odd palms around his house. The blistering heat of the summer are felling coconuts more. When the price was low, he wouldn’t have bothered even if the plucker didn’t turn up for months.

Price to slump again?

“Now I am worried that the price, which is at the top now, will dip if the plucker is not showing up,” says Mr. Nair.

Traditional coconut pluckers, who are fast vanishing, are having a busy time as they are running from one plot to the other.

“There will be frequent calls to my mobile phone, so much so that I keep it switched off most of the time,” says Kakkulangara Satheeshan, a traditional coconut plucker from Athanikkal here. If copra was priced around Rs.4,450 per quintal in April last year, it has gone up to Rs.11,000 by April this year. Similarly the price of raw coconut per kilogram was around Rs.13 in April last year. It has gone up to Rs.36 this year.

The Coconut Development Board (CDB) had envisaged a project called ‘Friends of Coconut Tree,’ to find an answer for the shortage of trained pluckers. The board with the help of different agencies such as Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) had given training to hundreds of youths including women in climbing the trees.

However, many of them did not pursue it as a career. “Some of them turned to other jobs while majority of the trained women called it a day after their marriage,” say sources from the KVK.

The district administration also has a similar project named ‘Swabhiman,’ a service-on-call initiative established in 2009, to provide skilled labourers for household needs including coconut plucking. District Coordinator of Swabhiman T. Unnikrishnan told The Hindu that there was a serious dearth of trained coconut pluckers with the agency.

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