Call for cost-effective farming and marketing facilities

: The Union government’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has recommended an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for copra by Rs.150 a quintal. The revised rates for milling copra and ball copra will be Rs.5,250 and Rs.5,500 a quintal respectively. The Ministry of Agriculture had reportedly sought an increase of Rs.250 a quintal.

The government move is intended to provide a helping hand to the farmer, but only a coordinated approach to facilitate cost-effective farming and marketing would be able to make a real impact in the lives of farmers. The hike will hardly make an impact on the income of the ordinary coconut farmer, said P.G.K. Koshy, president of Cochin Oil Merchants Association.

Nafed is the procurement agency for copra and it buys the best commodity only. In practice, ordinary farmers with small holdings would find it difficult to sell the entire lot of copra to the authorised agencies. This, in turn, would be counter-productive. The situation arises because copra made from the coconuts produced in a farm will not have uniform quality. From 100 coconuts, the copra yield could be anywhere between 10 kg and 18 kg. The fact that copra will have to be routed through farmers’ societies is another hindrance as far as the ordinary farmer is concerned.

Coconut oil from Tamil Nadu has been arriving in considerable quantities at cheaper prices than the local rates. Adulteration is rampant in coconut oil brought from neighbouring States. White oil, a colourless, odourless oil, a byproduct of the petroleum industry, and liquid paraffin are among the adulterants. Though there are systems to keep track of adulteration, it is often inadequate and fake market men flourish.

The customers are at the receiving end even in the case of packaged coconut oil. There are companies that market 850 gm instead of 912 gm in one-litre pouch. While the coconut oil merchants in Kochi sell the commodity at Rs.78 a kg, the exporters sell the 1-litre pouch at Rs.150, Mr. Koshy pointed out. Reforms in the coconut sector are generally beneficial to the big players in farming as well as industry while the ordinary farmer continues to be deprived of the larger benefits.