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Competitiveness Through Cost Reduction And Higher Productivity In Coconut

Global scenario of coconut production is showing an increasing trend. Between 1989 and 1993, the world area under coconut has increased by 2.51 percent and that of production of nuts by 7.5 percent. The estimated figure indicates that between 1989 and 1993, the world's copra production has increased by 6.14 percent and in case of Indonesia, the Philippines and India, the increases werelO, 13 and 27 percent, respectively. Though the world consumption of coconut oil has increased by 1.79 percent, it has decreased by 14.3 and 16.8 percent in Indonesia and the Philippines, respectively. In India, it has almost remained constant at around 0.28 million tonnes. In India, coconut palm, occupying an area of about 1.62 million ha, gives an annual production of 11,375 million nuts. A major part of the production is used for domestic consumption, either directly or in processed form, leaving no export surplus. As a result of New Economic Policies, if the Government of India decides to change its import policies for coconut produce due to low international prices, it will lead to severe market crash in the country. In this context, for the survival of the industry, it is necessary to achieve cost reduction and higher productivity. In recent past, in India, the cost of production of coconut has increased considerably due to the steep rise in the factor costs, mainly labour, fertilizers and transportation. The average cost required for cultivating one ha of local cultivar under rainfed conditions with good management in Kerala ranges from Rs.20,750 during the first year to about Rs. 10,500 between 6-7 years and to about Rs. 12,000 between 8- 60 years (at 1993-94 prices). The average yield per palm under farmer's condition is around 40 nuts, which is almost half of what is being realized in the experimental plots under rainfed condition. In this low productivity and high cost situation, the profit margin realized in coconut production is very low. This problem may be overcome through two approaches, viz., i) by reducing the annual cost of cultivation and ii) by reducing unit cost of production through higher productivity. At this backdrop, an attempt is made to analyze the possibilities of increasing competitiveness in coconut production by i) use of non-monetary/low cost inputs; ii) improved management practices; iii) adopting coconut based farming systems; and iv) use of modem equipment like dryer for post harvest operations. Monetary inputs play a vital role in modem agribusiness management. There is considerable scope to increase the productivity of coconuts in India by adopting these technologies. Management practices such as organic manuring, raising of cover crops in coconut basins and incorporation in situ, growing high yielding varieties / hybrids, rationalizing fertilizer application by practices such as skipping P when soil P status is high, use of rock phosphate in acid soils and irrigation will help in reducing unit cost of production of coconuts. In addition, restructuring of homesteads and systematic under planting/replanting of senile, unproductive and disease affected palms with good quality seedlings needs to be given more attention at field level. Cultivation of coconut adding both organic and inorganic fertilizers gives an additional annual income of Rs.7,475 per ha when compared to addition of inorganic fertilizers alone. Another possibility of reducing the total cost of production of coconut is through increase of total returns per unit land. This is possible by adopting suitable farming/cropping system models such as mixed farming, mixed/intercropping, multi-storyed cropping etc. Moreover, cultivation of intercrops during pre-bearing period yields a better cost-benefit ratio in project budgeting as compared to that of monocropping as the income starts accruing from the first year of planting. As regards to postharvest operations, use of smallholder's copra dryers will be helpful in lowering the unit cost of copra production.

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