Asianet News

The Golden Fibre

- Coir the future -

The coir industry in Kerala, despite its all illness is offering five lakh plus job to the people. Government is to open an era of modernisation for rejuvenating the industry.

The Golden Fibre

The story of coir begins with coconut palm. Though it is next to impossible to trace back its orgin, both historians and scientists are of the view that the coconutpalm had existed as far back as 3000 years ago. This cocountpalm had played pivotal role in the economy of Kerala from time immemorial till the “Gulf-money” took over it in early 70s. Coconut farming, oil extraction, toddy tapping and coir industry were the backbone the backbone of the state’s economy. Though the fast chainging Kerala scenario has relegated the cocount farming, oil extraction and toddy tapping into the backyard of its development agenda, the coir industr y still provides jobs for 5 lakh people in the coastal areas of the State and produces goods worth Rs 600 corore for export and domestic markets every year.

Coir industry is still the largest sour ces of non-farming employment for the rural poor in Kerala. While processing of fire and spinning of coir yarn is spread acress the entrie coastal belt employing bulk of the workers, mnaufacturing of coir pr oducts is localised in and around the Alappuza town and Cherthala. Nearly half the workers in the regions are employed in the industry. Everybody agree that picture of the coir scenario is not so rosy now for various reasons. While the industry has been enjoying buoyant market conditions and rising profits, domesti prices and wages have been declining giving rise to industrial unrest. The exports of coir and coir products had been declining since the fitties reaching a rock bottom of 23,214 tonnes in 1986-87. Since then it has been steadily rising to reach 27,926 tonnes in 1991and then more than double within a decade reaching a peack of 67,493 tonnes in 2000-01. The rise in demand has been fulled by changes in market tastes in favour of natural products and demand fro geotextiels.

The unit value of exports has also rising from Rs 13,545 in 1986-87 to Rs 17,350 in 1991 and then very rapidly to Rs 49,655 in 1999. The data show that rise in price in rupee terms have not been a barrier for increasing the exports. As part of on going reforms, the floor prices on coir exprots has been virtually given up. The abolition of Minimum Exprot Price has resulted in a decline of coir price in 2000-01 and it is still continuing. With fall in export prices, the prices paid by eporters to samll-scale producers (purchase price) also began to decline. With constant reduction in purchase price , producers were froced to cut the waters throughout the industry.

The situation has fruther worsened with the emergence of depot system (middlemen) between exporters and producesrs. The manipulations of depot owners have created a lot of porblem in the industry. Wages and quality have been at the receing end. Modernisation These apart ,the slow pace of modernisation processes is also a bane of the coir industry. Experts ar e of the view that the phase of modernisation of different sectors of industry needs to be accelerated and pave way for cost effective and productive equpment and machinery to replace the age old tradition and outmoded production and processing equipment. Lack of organised and coordinated efforts is felt in cer tatin sectors of the industry and this had affected the momentum of modernisation of industry despite the fact that the industry is now all set to accept the modern methods of production.

Training forms an integral part of modernisation process. keeping this in view Coir Board lays special emphasis in its plan programmes and organsies training in the use/adoption of new methods of production employing new devices. Problems faced by producers Coir products for domestic and export markets are mainly manufactured by the small-scale producers of coir who finds its oftern difficult to get quality raw materials like fibre, yarn, dye and chemiclas at reasonalble prices from the privite traders, whom they depend for its procurement.The soulution to this problem is to establish a Raw Material Bank capable of stocking and supplying quality items like coir fibre, coir yarn, dyes and other chemicals at a resonable prices to the smallscale manufactures number over 5000.


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