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Prospects For Coir Technology And Market Developments

The fibres which can be extracted from the husk of the coconut are still regarded in many regions as the by or waste product of copra production. These fibres have been processed traditionally into coarse yarns and ropes, floor covering and matting, brushes and brooms and as mattress filler. The processes to obtain a high quality fibre, however, include time consurning retting and labour intensive fibre extraction procedures, which are still in common use in Sri Lanka and Southern India.

Although some mechanization of the fibre extraction has been introduced and novel accelerated retting technology has recently been demonstrated to be a substantial improvement, the overall technology remains unchanged. The retting is polluting the surface waters and considered unhealthy for the workers. The existing mechanical defibration procedure is riskful for the hands of the workers and should be improved. The costs of technology development are high and are difficult to raise for a commodity like coir, since the earnings in the fibre production are only marginal and the fibre producers operate on relative small scales at the village level. Development of profitable novel markets to increase the income of the smallholders, is therefore essential.

The increased ecological consciousness, especially in Western Europe, has led to increased industrial interest in renewable raw materials and environmental safe products. A range of fibre based products have been introduced or are under development in automotive industries, building and construction markets, packaging and consumer goods, and others. The Agrotechnological Research Institute (ATO-DLO) is closely involved in many such industrial technology and product development projects.

In this presentation the market possibilities of coir in certain applications will be evaluated and the prospects vAll be outlined for the development of a novel technology to produce, starting from the green husks, durable and ecological safe building products like boards, poles and panels. These products potentially can give added value to the unprocessed green coconut husks and substitute for dwindling timber supplies and contributing to reduce deforestation.


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