Farmers unable to reap benefits of bumper yield as copra price nosedives

Lakhs of people, who are employed in these industries, are now staring at uncertainty. “The copra market is now in the hands of corporate firms, which procure up to 80 per cent from farmers for oil,” said S Ramesh, farmer from Pollachi.
Farmers unable to reap benefits of bumper yield as copra price nosedives
Copra kept ready for extracting oil at a farm

COIMBATORE: A bumper yield of coconuts following widespread rains and return of normalcy from COVID-19 impact undoubtedly raised high hopes of farmers.

Their expectations however failed to fructify as prices of both coconuts and copra fell to the lowest ever. Previously, the yield dropped drastically for subsequent years due to white fly menace and inadequate rains.

This year though, one of the major reasons behind the price drop is an inordinate delay in procurement of coconuts by the state government at the fixed minimum support price (MSP) and sluggishness in the export market. Therefore, the farmers were forced to sell coconuts in the domestic market at a low price.

“Copra, which was sold at Rs 140 per kg last year, crashed to Rs 77 this time in the domestic market. Similarly, a single piece of coconut procured from farmers at Rs 22 last year dropped to a meager Rs 9 per piece. Only after farmers expressed their resentment, the government commenced procurement at the MSP delayed by almost three months. The peak yield for coconuts began in March, but the actual procurement began only in June,” said N Thangavel, member of Coconut Farmers Association.

The government’s MSP is Rs 105.90 per kg of copra. Still, farmers couldn’t fetch a decent profit as they have to spend a considerable amount on labour; to load and unload goods, high transportation cost to take coconuts to the procurement centre and bring back the rejected ones.

“Prices of copra generally go up, once government begins procurement. This time, the price failed to increase and climbed up a little only to Rs 85 in the open market. Before, it was sold around Rs 77 per kg,” said Thangavel.

Fifty procurement centres were opened across TN and they will close by next month, even though coconut production will continue to be in peak for two more months. There are more than 3,000 copra drying units in Tirupur and Coimbatore. Also, more than 300 oil mills, which crush copra to produce around 2,000 tonnes of coconut oil every day are located mainly in Kangeyam, Uthukuli and Vellakovil areas.

Lakhs of people, who are employed in these industries, are now staring at uncertainty. “The copra market is now in the hands of corporate firms, which procure up to 80 per cent from farmers for oil,” said S Ramesh, farmer from Pollachi.

Seeking to increase the MSP by Rs 140 as even fertilizer cost has increased by more than 100 per cent, the farmers also put forth a persistent demand to sell coconut oil under subsidy at PDS outlets, like Kerala.

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