When will we be given space to sophisticatedly operate Asia’s biggest tender coconut market? This is the primary question on the minds of more than 100 tender coconut merchants at Maddur in Mandya district. The tender coconut market on the premises of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) at Maddur supplies at least 11 crore tender coconuts to different parts of the country every year. The merchants here buy/sell more than 15 crore tender coconuts every year. Most of the suppliers have to wait with their vehicles along the Bangalore-Mysore Highway for hours together as the market is short of space.

The market spreads over an area of around 6.3 acres. No less than 100 trucks, 500 three-wheelers, mini lorries and bullock carts turn up either to supply or to carry tender coconuts. As there is not much space to park trucks, most of the vehicles and bullock carts are parked along the highway, anticipating other vehicles to leave the market premises. This causes congestion and slows traffic on the Bangalore-Mysore Highway.

The APMC wants to construct a sophisticated market for tender coconut merchants at Maddur and is seeking an extent of 25 acres from the Mandya district administration, Mudya Chandrashekar, APMC President (Maddur), told The Hindu.

The coconut crop is grown on nearly 1.5 lakh hectares in Mandya and the district produces more than nearly 15 crore nuts in a year. Nearly, 11 crore piecess are being supplied to various States. While 20 per cent of remaining produce is sold as tender coconut, the rest is being used for the purposes of food and manufacturing oil.

The demand for tender coconut surges during the festival seasons. “The merchants here had sold more than one crore tender coconuts to Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Gujarat, New Delhi and other places during Christmas and New Year eve,” the APMC president said. On an average, merchants at the Maddur APMC supply at least five lakh tender coconuts daily to other States.

Despite all this, the coconut growers say that they are not getting the benefit of demand for their products. “The middlemen and merchants are making a good profit. They buy the products from us for Rs. 5-Rs. 9 but sell it for Rs. 18-Rs. 20,” Nanje Gowda of Shivapur, who has nearly 1,500 coconut trees, said.

The merchants at Maddur get orders not only from other States but at times from overseas also. During the festival season they increase the prices by at least Rs. 3 per coconut. Earlier they used to sell a nut at between Rs. 12 and Rs. 15. Now they have increased the prices. But, they have not increased the buying price from the growers, the latter allege.

Mr. Chandrashekar said that the APMC has been helping the tender coconut growers by taking maximum efforts to curb the ‘middlemen menace’ at the APMC.

M.T. SHIVA KUMAR