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Global Developments Affecting Competitiveness Of The Coconut Industry

The world trade organization was born on January I, 1995 with the primary objective of bringing uniformity, certainty and transparency in the world trading system by restraining members from invoking arbitrary and unilateral trade policy measures. Since GATT rules were largely ineffective in discipling agricultural trade, the 1985-94 Uruguay round went a long way towards changing all that and agricultural trade now is firmly within the multitrade trading system. However, the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) o f WTO has come to pose a serious challenge to agriculture particularly in the developing countries. This among others is affecting the fortunes of coconut industry which accounts for an area o f 12.19 million hectares and a production o f 13.66 million tones (of copra equivalent) in 93 countries with a significant influence on the lives o f millions o f people and economy of several tropical countries.

Coconut oil, the major trading commodity of coconut is facing stiff competition from other vegetable oils and is becoming incompetitive in terms of price. It is, however, unfortunate that both at national and international level, the planners and policy makers arc yet to realize the fact that to overcome issues arising out of Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) o f WTO, the answer lies in increasing coconut productivity resulting in competitiveness. The present situation warrants reorientation of R&D programmes for achieving higher productivity, thus making coconut industry globally competitive and coconut farming a viable enterprise for small farm holders. To achieve this goal, the following strategy is suggested.

i. The replacement of old and senile plantations, wherever available, calls for a massive replanting programme with genetically superior quality planting material.

ii. Improving plantation efficiency by filling gaps and replacement o f diseased palms.

iii. Adoption of high density planting by planting dwarf, high yielding hybrids can reduce juvenile period, result in manifold yield increases, bring about easy and effective management of pests and diseases and ease in harvest operations, which now require lot o f drudgery.

iv. . For meeting unprecedented and high demand of planting material of new varieties, standardization o f a commercially viable micro propagation protocol is an urgent necessity.

v. There is scope of improving productivity by effective transfer of technology. Farming system approach with crop intensification and diversification with high and low value crops and integration of various enterprises need to be exploited for achieving higher resource use efficiency and profitability of existing plantations.

vi. Development of reliable and selective diagnostic tests based on molecular tools need to be addressed to manage the disease problems, which are adversely affecting productivity.

vii. Mechanization of pre- and post- harvest operations and processing techniques will be beneficial to overcome the shortage of skilled labour and to achieve reduction in cost of production.

viii. There is need to exploit emerging market o f organic coconut. Emphasis also needs to be laid on stringent quality standards.

ix. Coconut is a price taker than a price setter in edible oil industry. Since the demand as well as price realization of the coconut oil has been dipping due to its price being volatile and unpredictable. There is thus need to have more product portfolio by development and promotion o f other value added products.

x. Coconut products with emphasis on nutrition, health and medicine need to be promoted.

xi. The competitiveness o f coconut industry calls for its strengthening through regional strategic forums.

It is hoped that with appropriate policies and programmes resulting in improved productivity, and extensive use o f coconut and its products in food, health and medicine, coconut w ill continue providing sustainable livelihood to millions o f farmers not withstanding changes in global policies.








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