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Chinese windfall for Pollachi coir industry

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GOLDEN FIBRE: A coir-fibre extraction unit in Pollachi. - Photo: M. Balaji
GOLDEN FIBRE: A coir-fibre extraction unit in Pollachi. - Photo: M. Balaji

M. Gunasekaran

POLLACHI: The three-decade-old coir industry of Pollachi has been able to woo businessmen from China.

With spurt in demand for mattresses in China and heavy rain hampering supplies of coir fibre from Sri Lanka, the Chinese have been turning to India for the last couple of months to meet their fibre requirements.

Bulk orders have made all fibre extraction units in Pollachi busy.

Dozens of defunct mills have been revived swiftly. The not-so-active industry was hitherto largely depending on neighbouring Kerala from where the fibre was being exported as an end product after value addition.

At least 50 containers of the fibre have been shipped from Pollachi to China in the last two months, industry sources said.

With non-availability of baling machine to compress the fibre into 100 kg to 150 kg blocks, traders take the fibre to nearby Coimbatore and Tirupur where cotton baling machines are available. According to Coir Board vice-chairman C.M. Kamaraj, who had ordered importing of a baling machine from the Philippines, the Chinese demand has come as a rare opportunity and the industry should seize it by offering a more competitive price than Sri Lanka does and also ensuring timely delivery.

Sunco Exporters managing director S. Mahesh Kumar says the Chinese require 20,000 tonnes of fibre a year.

They import latex from Malaysia and produce mattresses and flower pots in huge quantities.

The coconut town of Pollachi, according to Mr. Mahesh Kumar, has twin advantages: abundant quantity of coconut husk and clean, long staple fibre.

It can export 35 containers of fibre a day.

The farmers too stand to benefit as they get 10 paise a husk now, instead of clearing it free of cost from their farms four months ago.

While all are jubilant, their only concern is over an acute shortage of labour.

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