Agri Business

Tender coconuts turn harder on wallets

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on January 13, 2018

Dry days: Maddur’s APMC yard, the country’s largest market for tender coconuts, wears a deserted look - Photo: Somashekar GRN   -  BusinessLine

With output hit by the drought, prices have already surged by 20 per cent

Visitors to the APMC market yard in Maddur, in Karnataka’s Mandya district, are confronted by near-empty trading platforms, the fallout of a debilitating drought that has hit the region.

Tender coconut is the only commodity traded at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yard in this town, located on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. Indeed, it is the country’s largest market for tender coconuts, with trading volumes totalling around 17 crore in 2016.

The Maddur yard attracts nuts from within a radius of about 100 km, and supplies them as far as Jammu, Delhi, Mumbai and Nagpur.

Even as the soaring mercury triggers demand for tender coconuts, a healthy alternative to sugary and carbonated drinks, market arrivals at Maddur have dropped considerably in recent weeks. This is being blamed on successive droughts and the declining water table impacting output in the Cauvery basin.

“Daily arrivals in the summer months should average 3-4 lakh nuts a day. But this year, the arrivals have dropped to 2-2.5 lakh nuts a day,” says Srikanta Prabhu, Secretary, APMC Maddur.

Arrivals will fall further in the days ahead as yields have been impacted by the drought. Even if it rains now, the palms will take at least six months to recover and for arrivals to pick up.

The decline in production has seen prices surge, with wholesale rates about 20 per cent higher this year, touching a high of ₹16-25 per nut. The nuts are then sold at to consumers at ₹30-50 apiece.

“Tender coconuts produced in the Cauvery basin are in high demand for their unique sweet taste,” said Prakash, a trader. But production has almost halved in the region this year.

The rise in prices has put agents who harvest and procure nuts from the farmers in a fix. “We normally pay the farmers a fixed price in advance, based on our assessment of the average yield per tree. Our calculations have gone wrong this year as the yields have dropped considerably, hurting our realisations,” said Ravi, an agent who works with about 25 farmers. The agent normally bears harvesting and transportation costs and farmers rarely visit the market.

Farmers on an average get ₹8-10 per nut, said R Nagaraj, Chairman, Maharaja Coconut Producers Company, a growers collective in Mandya that wants to take up direct marketing to boost realisations for growers. “We want the state to support us like Kerala does,” he adds.

Plantations have lost about a tenth of the palms due to the water stress in recent years, Nagaraj said, adding that the Government should help growers in replanting and rejuvenation.

Published on March 09, 2017

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