Special Correspondent

To be implemented on a pilot basis

Coconut Board has formulated the project

Andaman and Nicobar Islands also covered

KOCHI: The Kochi-based Coconut Development Board has formulated a project for the rejuvenation or replacement of old, disease-affected coconut palms.

The departments of Agriculture and Cooperation have approved its implementation on a pilot basis in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Thrissur districts and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, say board officials here.

Minnie Mathew, Chairperson of the board, says the year 2008-09 was a challenging one when the country emerged as the largest producer of coconut in terms of nuts. With a production of 15.84 billion nuts, India overtook Indonesia, whose production was 15.2 billion. Consumption of coconut, coconut products and, more particularly, tender coconut showed encouraging growth during the year. The investment of the board in the coconut sector has steadily increased from Rs.20 crore in 2004-05 to Rs.65 crore in 2008-09. The increase in the budget allocation in 2008-09 from the previous year’s has been 25.69 per cent. The board fully utilised the grant-in-aid. The tangible impact of the board’s programme has been felt in many areas, including production and productivity improvement.

The bulk of the expenditure has been on productivity improvement. The coconut cluster programme, which is being implemented by the board to neutralise the disadvantages of small and fragmented holdings, was implemented in 329 clusters over an area of 12,038 hectares in seven States. The board has been able to directly reach out to 47,802 farmers. A recent review of the programme with the cluster representatives has shown that farmers in the clusters are confident about getting improved yields and higher returns after the adoption of scientific methods of management.

While the scope of bringing new areas under coconut in Kerala is limited, the board has implemented the area expansion programme over 2,856 hectares in potential areas in other States. The board has extended financial assistance to 18 nursery units, three seed production gardens and 1,020 organic manure units. It has produced and distributed more than 10 lakh coconut seedlings under various projects. Under the Technology Mission on coconut, technical and financial assistance has been extended to 27 coconut-based processing units. The board has carried out an extensive publicity campaign to highlight the goodness of coconut and promote the consumption of coconut.

Minimum support price

In 2008, the price of copra was above the minimum support price during the entire season. But a declining trend has been observed after January this year. In February, the Union government declared Rs.4,550 a quintal for copra and Rs.4,770 a quintal for ball copra. The minimum support price of de-husked nut is Rs.12. In view of the declining trends, it is imperative that the State-designated procuring agencies intervene in the market. An effective market intervention programme is necessary to ensure that the farmers get the benefit of the higher minimum support price. The board has already addressed the State governments on this issue, Ms. Mathew says.