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Competitiveness Of The Coconut Industry Through Co-Operative Marketing

Considering that about 95 percent of five million coconut holdings in India are below 1  ha, only a co-operative set up could offer the required technology and infrastructure to trigger off a coconut revolution. In 1987, KERAFED, an apex body in the co-operative sector, was established in Kerala to implement an integrated coconut production, procurement, processing and marketing project with an outlay of Rs. 934 million jointly funded by the European Economic Community, National Co-operative Development Corporation and Government of Kerala. Around 900 primary Agricultural Co-operative Societies (PACS), with an average membership of 3,000 each, channelise KERAFED services to 2.7 million out of a total 3 million coconut growers in Kerala to build up a viable coconut industry. KERAFED package includes agricultural extension programmes; organisational support to member PACS by way of share capital assistance; financial assistance for copra procurement, drying and storage, and managerial subsidy; and an industrial component of 3 modem coconut oil mills each with a capacity of 200 TPD, besides a solvent extraction unit and an oil refinery. KERAFED also works as the major operational agent for the copra Price Support Schemes of both the Central and State Governments to offer an assured and reasonable price to the producers. A professionally managed spearhead team looks the society as a nodal point and the issues like nutritional aspects are dealt as a part of socially motivating Federation (MARKETFED) exercises. Today, KERAFED is the largest coconut co-operative marketing network in India. Kerala State Co-operative Marketing is another Co-operative apex organisation which is engaged to a limited extent in copra procurement, besides other activities, through its affiliated marketing societies and service co-operatives. However, only a few co-operative societies are dealing with coconut/copra marketing in other states. Even after its acceptance as the most effective means of organising coconut smallholders for competitiveness, co-operatives had to work within the framework of certain constraints imposed by the rural economy. They could not always reach with the best of intention the segment of village society which needed its help the most. Yet the attempts to cheat farmers are foiled, the gap between the producer and consumer is reduced, sharp fall in prices has been arrested, farm er's income base has been augmented and some far reaching changes are at sight. Coconut Development Board, National Co-operative Development Corporation, Central and State Co-operative Departments and Co-operative Banks should provide adequate funds for strengthening the activities of the coconut co-operatives. Unfortunately, the general tendency of indiscriminately running down the co-operative institutions has not tapered off.

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