With World Coconut Day being celebrated Sunday, the production area and productivity of the nut has seen a decline in Kerala, the land of coconuts. But the government is now trying to reverse the trend.
According to Kerala State Planning Board figures, the area under coconut cultivation fell from 8,98,000 hectares in 2005-06 to 7,70,000 hectares in 2010-2011.
Production too dipped from 6,326 to 5,287 million nuts and productivity from 7,046 to 6,862 nuts per hectare during the same period.
This has come at a time when coconut production and productivity have gone up in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Speaking to IANS, Kerala's Agricultural Minister K.P. Mohanan said that in the past one year, a record number of fresh saplings had been provided to farmers and the results would be seen in three years' time when the trees start giving coconuts.
"One problem is that farmers show a negative attitude towards coconut when prices drop. But they take a different position when rubber prices change. They take more care of rubber trees than other crops," he said.
To mark the World Coconut Day, the minister launched Neera, a non-alcoholic health drink made from coconut water, at the Kerala Agricultural University in Thrissur Sunday.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy too has given nod to an expert committee for working towards setting up four coconut bio-parks.
Three coconut parks in the government sector and one in the private sector would come up in a few months, Mohanan said.
He said the government would provide all necessary infrastructure to companies to produce new products from coconuts.
The Coconut Development Board too plans to help farmers by setting up 5,000 tender coconut parlours across the country.
Tender coconuts will be directly supplied to the parlours by Coconut Producers' Society comprising of 40-100 coconut farmers from each area.
Gijo Joseph, the chief executive officer of Kochi Infopark, said a tender coconut sales outlet had opened at the Infopark a few months back and was doing good business.
"Daily, around 400 tender coconuts are being sold. Soon, we will start another outlet in the IT park in Koratty. There are plans to serve snowballs too," Joseph said.
Snowballs are the next stage of tender coconuts, where the kernel is scooped out.
Green signal has also been given to procuring 200 coconut driers for drying freshly-cut ripe nuts to make copra which are crushed to produce oil.
The driers will be offered at 50 percent subsidy.
One hundred such driers will be given to the agricultural department and 100 to the cooperation departments which will pass them to cooperative societies interested in procuring ripe coconuts directly from farmers.