Cure eludes prolonged illness of Konaseema’s ‘eldest son’

All political parties have diagnosed the prolonged illness of the ‘eldest son of Konaseema’—the sacred coconut tree, but, none of them seem to be able to provide a permanent cure for the illness

April 21, 2024 11:36 pm | Updated April 22, 2024 08:32 am IST - AMBAJIPETA 

Every household has a coconut tree in the Godavari Delta in Andhra Pradesh. Konaseema region is the major coconut producer in Andhra Pradesh.

Every household has a coconut tree in the Godavari Delta in Andhra Pradesh. Konaseema region is the major coconut producer in Andhra Pradesh. | Photo Credit: T. APPALA NAIDU

All political parties, including the ruling YSRCP, have diagnosed the prolonged illness of the ‘eldest son of Konaseema’—the sacred coconut tree. However, none of them succeeded in finding a permanent cure for the illness that is plaguing the coconut tree and the farmers of the Godavari Delta in Andhra Pradesh. 

The Central Delta is nestled between the Gowthami and the Vasista, two branches of the River Godavari that confluence into the Bay of Bengal. The Central Delta, otherwise known as ‘Konaseema’, is a land where coconuts are grown in over 54,000 hectares of deltaic land in the 16 mandals.

Cocoa is the major intercrop in the coconut orchards. In 2022, the Konaseema region was carved out of the erstwhile East Godavari district and designated as a new district. Later, it was named after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Konaseema District. 

In an election campaign held in P. Gannavaram on April 11, JSP president K. Pawan Kalyan claimed to have arrived to rescue coconut farmers. 

The eldest son

“In Konaseema, every family owns at least one coconut tree, which they treat as their eldest son. Now, the eldest son of the family has taken ill and needs an immediate cure,” said Mr. Pawan Kalyan. 

“Our alliance, JSP-BJP-TDP, will guarantee the establishment of a branch of the Coconut Board in Konaseema. A comprehensive study will be conducted to address the challenges of the coconut farmers and the trade,” he assured.

In the same campaign, TDP national president N. Chandrababu Naidu stated: “Konaseema is the only place in Andhra Pradesh where the guest is served coconut water instead of plain water. This gesture makes known for their hospitality and affection”.

The scientists of the Horticulture Research Station (Ambajipeta-Konaseema) have been investigating to prevent the Ragose Spiralling White-Fly (RSW) disease, which is spreading at an alarming rate across the Godavari Delta. 

Once infected with the white-fly disease, the coconut tree sheds its yield before it attains the mature stage. Owing to the same disease, the coconut tree’s mortality is also on the rise, leaving scientists and farmers in a quandary.  

The wedding connection

The White-fly disease also causes reporting of ‘scars’ on the entire coconut. This symptom has left a scar on the traditional wedding ritual in Konaseema, where the coconut shares a cultural bond with the local communities. In the wedding ritual, the bride enters the venue holding a coconut. That coconut should be ‘fresh green in colour without any scar. 

During the Coconut Year celebrations held in Konaseema in 2020-21, Amalapuram MLA Pinipe Viswaroop said, “We have coconut everywhere in the Konaseema. However, we have been struggling to find a ‘scar-free coconut’ for the wedding ritual, for which we are forced to depend on scar-free coconut grown in Uddanam”.

Uddanam is a region in Srikakulam district, the second-largest pocket under coconut cultivation in Andhra Pradesh.

India’s highest coconut yield of 15,964 nuts per hectare was reported in Andhra Pradesh State, claims 2021-22 report of the Coconut Development Board (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare). 

The total area under coconut cultivation in Andhra Pradesh is 1.5 lakh hectares, which is five times less than in Kerala. However, Kerala’s coconut yield per hectare (7215 nuts) is half that of Andhra Pradesh, whose annual production is 1,689 million nuts (2021-22). In Konaseema, the coconut crop is the prime source of employment for thousands. 

Five-year plan

In 2021, the ruling party introduced an exclusive five-year plan (2021-26) dedicated to reviving the coconut crop with scientific intervention to contain the spread and prevent the RSW disease. 

In 2021, then Agriculture Minister Kurasala Kannababu claimed: “₹30 crore has been allotted for the coconut five-year plan that encourages cocoa as an intercrop apart from measures to prevent the spread of the RSW”. Later, the HRS-Ambajipeta signed a pact with the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI-Kasargod) to revive the coconut crop in Konaseema.

In the Godavari Delta, all the political parties are raining sops on the revival of the coconut crop to ‘reap’ votes. However, a befitting reciprocation is awaited from the coconut farmers who are set to dictate the fate of the political parties in the delta.  

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