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Integrated Approach In The Processing Of Coconut Products/ By - Products And Market Prospects In India

India is a country where the coconut palm, a versatile tree crop, cultivated in an area of 1.947 million hectares, with an estimated production of 14811 million nuts (as per the official release for 2005- 06) has a tremendous influence on the socio-economic condition of about 10 million coconut farmers. Literary Classics of India have rightly termed the coconut tree “Kalpavriksha”, the all-giving tree, as every part of the tree, from its roots to tips, is used for various purposes.

With an annual production of nearly 15000 million nuts, India continues to be one of the leading coconut producers of the world. Over the last 10 years, coconut acreage is growing annually at 0.62% and production by 1.35%. The productivity of coconut is 7608 nuts per hectare, which also shows an increase of 14.72% over the previous year. An increase in production to the level of 15564 million nuts is estimated for 2007-08.  

The utilization pattern of coconut in the country reveals that of the total production of coconut, about 42% is utilized for edible religious and seed nut purposes, 15% as tender coconut 35% for conversion of milling and 8% for edible copra. Of the 42% of raw nut consumption, 90% is consumed in the edible sector or for the purpose of seed nut and 10% in the industrial Sector for the production of value added product like desiccated coconut, milk powder and other convenience foods. Recent advancements in product development and promotion of adoption of new technologies have resulted in increased utilization of coconut in the processing sector.  

Coconut oil accounts for 6% of the vegetable oil pool in the country.  Copra and coconut oil are the major commercial products, whose market price determines the price of coconut in the country. The total coconut oil production in the country is 4.60 lakh M.T., of which 40% is consumed in the edible sector, 46% in toiletry and the rest in industrial sector. The year 2008 has witnessed an increase in the prices of coconut oil, which ranged between $132.5 per quintal to $162.5 during January to June. This trend is also reflected in better price for coconut and tender coconut.

The crop contributes US$2075 million to the country’s GDP and earns foreign exchange to the extent of nearly US$168 million by way of export of coconut products and by-products, the major items of export being coir and coir products. Of late, some of the new products which have received encouraging response from the overseas buyers notably include virgin coconut oil, tender nut water, coconut milk powder and activated carbon.  During 2007-08(January to June), exports of coconut products (excluding coir items) have registered an increase in value terms by 8.79%, having grown from a level of $6.050 million to US$6.724 million. On the imports front, there has been a decrease in imports in terms of value by 69.97% during this period, mainly accounted for by decreased imports of coconut oil.

The Policies of Government of India for overall upliftment and development of the coconut Sector are implemented through the Coconut Development Board, which was established for this purpose in 1981 under an Act of Parliament. Various policy measures drawn up the Government and implemented through the Board, have resulted in popularizing and adoption of viable processing technologies for value added coconut products, and heightened availability of marketing infrastructure.

Conducting consumer preference studies and collecting regular information and updating marketing profiles,making available information and analyses on food safety laws of the importing countries at regular intervals to the trade and industry are some of the steps taken for market promotion. The market research and promotional activities have resulted in increased consumer awareness of coconut products and their health benefits to human beings.

Taking a cue from observations in earlier APCC Sessions, the Government is contemplating a proposal for introducing a massive replanting and rejuvenating plan, aimed at reducing senility and achieving increased productivity, augmenting income of about 3 to 5 lac farmers through adoption of coconut based integrated farming system and providing increased employment opportunities. The implementation of this project is also envisaged to generate quality raw material for the coir and coir based industry.

Measures to encourage the nascent package coconut water industry by withdrawal of excise duty of 16.5% by the Government has also enthused new entrepreneurs in this sector.

Policy intervention and institutional support are the instruments adopted in India to contain the risk of price instability and price fluctuations. The Minimum Support Price which was so far being declared was for milling and ball copra. However, it was observed that the benefits  were  not percolating to the farmers as intended, since farm level processing was not taken up in a significant manner on the grass root level. Therefore, a new initiative to protect the interest of farmers and to do away with middleman is issuance of Minimum Support Price for de-husked coconut has been launched from 2008. This would encourage cooperative Societies for developing infrastructure facilities for undertaking procurements of raw coconuts from the farmers and processing into copra.

Therefore, multi-pronged strategies have been adopted to improve production,productivity and product diversification, along with dovetailing strategies for better utilization of the production through an integrated approach. The various efforts that are being made to improve production, productivity and product diversification with aggressive marketing strategy have started paying dividend. Only with the adoption of a combination of different strategies can holistic and accelerated development of the coconut sector be achieved, which will ultimately enhance the competitiveness of the Indian coconut sector.

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