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Challenges To The Coconut Industry In India And Strategy For Making It Globally Competitive In The 21st Century

Coconut is a benevolent provider of all amenities to mankind and has very few parallels. The crop sustains more than 5 million farm families in India for their daily livelihood. The country ranks third in area and production and first in productivity in the world coconut scenario. Among an array of products derived from coconut, coconut oil is the most important product. It contributes 6% to the national vegetable pool. Apart from oil, desiccated coconut, coconut cream, cream powder and coconut vinegar are some of the edible products already developed in the country. India is producing 12,355 million nuts from an area of 1.63 million ha. The corresponding figure a decade back was 5,807 million nuts and 1.16 million ha. The productivity level at present recorded is 7,572 nuts per ha which was as low as 4,983 nuts per ha in 1983- 1984. However, wide variation in productivity ranging from 5 ,O X C ) nuts per ha to 18,000 nuts per ha has been observed within the country. The low productivity is mainly attributed to the so called debilitating root (wilt) disease widespread in the prime producing state coupled with other unscientific management practices. Lack of suitable control measures against this disease is one of the serious problems daunting the farming sector. Despite, the country has shown substantial improvement in the field of area, production and productivity of the crop.

Increase in production of coconut has posed serious challenges to the coconut industry. At present, coconut industry in the country is mainly centered around coconut oil alone. The large quantity of mature nut consumption to the extent of 60% of the total production leaves very little for marketable surplus or exportable surplus. Intensive efforts on product diversification and by product utilisation is the immediate necessity to make the Indian industry remunerative and globally competitive. However, India is unfortunately handi­ capped with lack of proper technologies for product development. The country is pinning its hopes on the Coconut Development Board, an apex body formulated for the integrated development of coconut industry in the country for any innovations/improvement in the product development. India seeks the co-operation and assistance of APCC member countries in obtaining the technologies already developed by countries like Philippines, Indonesia or Sri Lanka. APCC can also play a major role in countering the campaign against coconut oil which created a consternation among the oil consumers.

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