The entry of cheap and adulterated coconut oil in the market as a result of poor monitoring poses a strong threat
Even as the recent increase in the supportive price for raw coconut comes as good news for several ailing coconut farmers, things are not that rosy for the small entrepreneurs in traditional coconut oil mill units in the district.
The entry of cheap and adulterated coconut oil in the market as a result of poor monitoring poses a strong threat even to the existence of this traditional industry, which has been a means of living for several lower income groups in the villages.
Now, the market is moving in such a way as to pick and promote cheap brands — irrespective of its quality certification and manufacturing methods. They are offered at a cheaper rate to the wholesale and retail traders promising them a better retail margin.
When the traditional coconut oil mill entrepreneurs are compelled to price the product between Rs.130 to 150 for survival, their competitors are attracting the retailers with a cheaper rate, mostly below Rs.100 for a litre, to thrive in the business.
“We often wonder how the outside manufacturers — even people from Tamil Nadu and certain parts of Kerala — can supply the ‘pure oil’ at a cheaper rate when the price of coconut stands at Rs.28 per kilogram.
The fraud will come to light if you check the actual coconut oil content of at-least seven cheaper brands now available in the market through a scientific checking mechanism,” says Saji Athulya, an oil mill owner from Kattippara.
He finds the Food Safety Authority as the “main culprit”, as it has been continuing like an “onlooker” without any action against the foul plays.
For a quintal of copra, one will have to pay at least Rs.9,200 as per the current market rate. Only 64 kilogram of coconut oil can be produced from a quintal of copra. Amid all these, how can the market cater processed coconut oil — after meeting all the production cost and labour charge — at a cheaper rate and to an increasing number of buyers?, the traditional oil mill entrepreneurs wonder.
The surprising fact, according to local oil mill owners, is that even fake brands have a hold among the retailers. In most of the trades, the supplier does not give any bill to the merchants as per a mutual understanding. Likewise, the traders too maintain no purchase records of such products. Native entrepreneurs like Suresh Kumar and Jayapalan say that the fraudsters in the sector are mainly targeting the urban people and the floating population
Leaders of the Malabar Coconut Oil Mill Owners Association, who are already up in arm against foul plays in the oil industry, say that they will shortly team up for mass protests.