With the entire Lakshadweep group of islands being declared an organic agricultural area, the island administration is eyeing an expansion of the traditional business in coconut and coconut products through value addition, better marketing, and round-the-year processing.
Around 10-crore coconuts are produced on the island in 12,000 small holdings with an average size of 0.25 hectares, sources in the island administration say. The total acreage under coconut is around 2,800 hectares.
The nuts are processed now mostly for oil and the islands being declared an organic agricultural area will give a big boost to their business, sources add.
At the same time, there is tremendous scope for expanding the business. At present, only about three crore nuts are processed on the island and there is an excess of around seven crore nuts, which are mostly sold in mainland India.
The coconut processing industry also works only for about six months a year when the weather is dry. The period between May and December sees the industry come to a standstill. When the industry idles, coconuts are lost. Keeping this in view, the island administration plans to introduce dryers and other machinery to utilise the nuts even during the wet months, sources add.
The move is expected to increase coconut utilisation from the present level of around 50% to more than 70%. The business in coconuts and coconut products is worth around ₹75 crore a year now. The volume of business can easily go up to about ₹200 crore with measures like the ones being contemplated by the administration, sources add.
The island’s coconut farmers are also expected to benefit from the Union government’s ‘One District One Product’ programme of food processing in which the entire island is being considered as a single district and coconut oil has been identified as the product. Financial support for the programme will help augment the coconut industry on the island, sources add.
One of the key areas of attention is marketing. The restrictions on accessing the island from other parts of India prevents buyers from reaching the islands to make direct procurements. Taking this into consideration, the island administration plans to help the farmers market their products under a common brand name through an entity chosen by the administration.
Ensuring the quality of the raw material through the declaration of the islands as an organic agricultural area, augmented processing facilities with value addition and marketing support will go a long way in giving a boost to the business, island administration sources say.