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Shortage of dried coir pith hinders export

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TOUGH TIME: Women workers engaged in filtering coir fibre from pith using a sieving machine in Pollachi. Photo: M. Balaji
TOUGH TIME: Women workers engaged in filtering coir fibre from pith using a sieving machine in Pollachi. Photo: M. Balaji

M. Gunasekaran

Non-availability of concrete drying yards is the reason

Coir pith has booming market in US, Europe, AustraliaLast year Pollachi accounted for Rs. 10 cr. worth of exports Coir pith used to improve soil condition and grow horticultural products

POLLACHI: Shortage of dried coir pith, mainly due to non-availability of concrete drying yards, is affecting its export.

Once considered a waste product whose disposal was a problem, coir pith today has a booming market in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Last year, coir pith worth Rs. 30 crore was exported. Of this products worth Rs. 10 crore were from Pollachi where a dozen exporters are doing business.

This year, an export target of Rs. 50 crore has been fixed.

High freight charges

"Despite high freight charges, we have ample scope to double the export in a year or two. But we do not have adequate dried pith. Though awareness has increased, people still burn the pith in remote areas," regrets S. Mahesh Kumar, Managing Director, Sunco Exporters.

Coir Board Chaiman A.C. Jose says it is a virgin product that cannot be compared with any other growth media.

Its horticultural and agricultural uses are universally accepted. Coir pith, which absorbs water up to 400-600 per cent of its weight, is used for improving the soil condition and growing horticultural products.

It is exported in bales of five kg and 650-gm bricks, and sold at $120-140 a tonne in the international market.

30 per cent growth

Mr. Kumar says the industry is witnessing 30 per cent growth every year.

The companies procure dried pith at the rate of Rs. 1,000 a tonne from contractors.

The exporters have appealed to the district administration to involve self-help groups in the labour-intensive industry.

Mr. Kumar suggests that the Government give wasteland to the SHGs for setting up concrete drying yards. The industry is ready to give them technical support.

Some fibre extraction units are willing to supply the raw material free of cost. Such an initiative, he reasons, will help increase the exports and enable the SHGs to earn a reasonable income.

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