Coconut farmers in Kozhikode district are going through the worst financial crisis ever with the plummeting prices of raw coconut in the open market and insufficient number of procurement centres in villages. A kilogram of coconut now costs just ₹21, which is hardly sufficient to meet the actual expenses to collect the crop from the field.
Though the procurement centres opened with the support of the State government offering ₹35 for a kilogram of raw coconut, Kozhikode district has limited number of such centres. The monthly procurement, according to sources, is only 40 tonnes now, when the minimum demand for procurement is at least 250 tonnes.
The price fall has hit farmers at a time when they are facing a huge drop in yield owing to seasonal changes, diseases and wild animal attacks. Many are forced to leave the field, thanks to hiked labour charges and rising transportation and fertiliser costs. They point out that traditional farmers who own large tracts of coconut farms will be compelled to clear the field for cultivation of other viable crops.
“The worst-hit are farmers who cooperated with the Kera Gramam project. If the ongoing procurement drive is found ineffective in covering all coconut villages, farmers will naturally be compelled to leave the field. How can we help them with a nominal procurement drive with just seven or eight collection centres?” asks Johnson Kulathingal, a State-level functionary of Kisan Kerala. He adds that farmers should get at least ₹50 a kilogram to stay afloat in the field.
Jijo Thomas, a district-level leader of We Farm farmers’ movement, says wild animal encroachments, especially attack by monkeys, have peaked in coconut farms. “Farmers do not get the compensation they deserve for crop loss,” he laments.
P.D. Prakashan, a farmers’ organisation leader from Peruvannamuzhi, says the market price of coconut that stood at ₹8 a kilogram in 2008 had been steadily on the rise for over eight years giving fresh hopes to coconut-based ventures.
“Now, it is again going back to the old stage. Farmers are not even getting the price of the procured coconut in time because of the poor intervention of the persons accountable for monitoring the sector,” he says.