The Centre has come up with a price support scheme to procure 50,000 tonnes of milling copra from Kerala during the 2023 season.

The State Government can decide the procurement date, but it should remain only for six months from the date of commencement.

The farming community hailed the decision, saying that it is expected to benefit coconut farmers when copra prices are ruling at ₹8,650 per tonne against the support price of ₹10,860.

Last year’s drawback

At the same time, they are apprehensive of deriving any benefit considering the reported failure of the scheme in the previous year. Last year, Kerala could procure only 255 tonnes in eight months out of the sanctioned 50,000 tonnes, they said.

This was mainly because of the stipulation of not giving sanction to those firms which produce coconut oil. Such conditions had facilitated agencies such as Kerafed to keep out of the purview from the procurement drive. Farmers’ cooperative societies which engaged in coconut oil production have also not come forward for procurement.

Thalath Mahmood, Director of Cochin Oil Merchants Association (COMA), stressed the need to change the procurement method itself by involving both traders and farmers and procure the commodity from open market. This would boost the prices.

He said the procured copra should be sold within three months to avoid affecting its quality. A major portion of the procured quantity in the last season is still lying in various godowns, he said.

Scepticism over State’s capability

Official sources said the procurement drive is likely to benefit farmers when copra prices are ruling lower against the support price. But they wondered whether the State Government is equipped to procure more than 500 tonnes in the absence of necessary infrastructure and keeping several agencies out of the purview of the procurement drive. To make the drive a success, sources stressed the need to open more procurement centres in each panchayats.

Majority of the firms in the cooperative sector with copra dryers are having coconut milling units. These units could not participate because of the Centre’s stipulation. Moreover, copra processing in Kerala is on the verge of extinction and firms are not interested in producing copra for sale other than for making coconut oil. As an alternative, the government should come forward to procure raw coconuts rather than copra, the sources added.

It is pointed out that the Tamil Nadu Agriculture department had entered directly into the market which enabled them to procure 40,000 tonnes of copra, fetching ₹80 crore, while Kerala had garnered only ₹40 lakh.