Production drops from 6,000 coconuts an acre a year to 3,000 in many areas in East Godavari

The drastic fall in production of coconuts, the main source of livelihood for thousands in the Konaseema region and other parts of the East Godavari district, has affected farmers, labourers and also the market in a big way.

The production, which touched 6,000 coconuts an acre in a year in normal conditions, has gone down to 3,000 in most of the areas due to unusual weather conditions, frequent power cuts, blast disease and other reasons.

The farmers in Konaseema go for plucking of coconuts eight to nine times in a year and get 750 coconuts an acre. However, during March-April this year, the yield was only 350- 400 coconuts due to bad weather conditions.

According to scientists of Coconut Research Centre in Ambajipeta, the temperatures in Konaseema did not normally cross 36-38 degrees Celsius in peak summer, but last year, they touched 42 degrees C, followed by heavy rains in the wake of Neelam cyclone, affecting coconut production in almost all the 13 mandals of the Amalapuram Revenue Division.

Shortage of labourers

Another major problem in entire district is shortage of labourers with expertise in plucking coconuts. The labour charge was Rs.450 per 1,000 coconuts during 2010-11 and now it is Rs.1000 per 1000 coconuts. Inclusive of transportation, the farmer sells tender coconuts for Rs.6 in the market, which was Rs. 3 earlier. But, vendors are selling each coconut in Rajahmundry, Kakinada and other places at Rs.15.

According to Nyapati Lakshmi Narasimha Rao, who has more than 10 acres of coconut groves, the farmer is passing through in a very bad period he has never seen.

“Labour charges, weather conditions, mites followed by blast disease have made the life of coconut farmer miserable,” Mr. Rao says. According to him, farmers are shifting to other methods of livelihood such as shrimp farming and aquaculture.

G.V. Harsha Kumar, Congress MP from Amalapuram, when contacted, said that he had invited different industries to Konaseema to setup units related to 13 by-products of coconut last year. The industrialists were advised to form coconut farmers’ societies on the lines of Kerala with 40 farmers each and have a federation through which coconut by-products industries can be established.