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TN: Price of Coconut Dips by Half, Farmers Want Govt to Intervene

To address mounting concerns of coconut farmers, AIKS Tamil Nadu has formedthe Coconut Farmers Federation.
 Protest breaking coconuts in Madurai on Aug 5. Image courtesy: Theekkathir

Protest breaking coconuts in Madurai on Aug 5. Image courtesy: Theekkathir

Tamil Nadu: Over the past couple of months, coconut farmers in Tamil Nadu have been holding several protests demanding the that the government fix a reasonable minimum support price (MSP) for coconut and copra.

The price per coconut was around Rs 24 last year, it has now come down to a meagre Rs10-12 in the past couple of months.

Due to the fall in the prices, farmers have been severely affected financially. Additionally, the price of products, such as coconut husks and coconut shells obtained from coconuts has also taken a hit.

Coconut farmers have already been adversely affected by cyclones and monsoons. Many of them have not fully recovered from the high-velocity winds during Cyclone Gaja in late 2018.

Hence, coconut farmers are demanding that government cooperative societies procure copra at Rs 140 per kg. The current fixed price is Rs 105.9 per kg, but the local traders purchase it for Rs 80 and Rs 90.

They are also demanding coconut be purchased at Rs 50 per kg as is the price fixed by the Kerala government.

To give special attention to the issues of coconut farmers and to address their rising concerns, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Tamil Nadu initiated the formation of a separate Coconut Farmers Association in June 2022.

BASIC DEMANDS

At present, the government procures only a limited quantity of coconut and copra from farmers. To expedite the procurement of copra, the Tamil Nadu Federation of Coconut Farmers demanded that the conditions should be relaxed and copra should be procured from all farmers at the fixed MSP.

The federation demands that with the procured copra from the farmers, coconut oil should be produced and supplied through the public distribution system (PDS) shops at subsidised rates. They also want steps to be taken to use coconut oil in anganwadi and mid-day-meal centres. To facilitate the process, the federation demands the setting up of coconut oil mills in every district.

Farmers have demanded that crop insurance should be provided to all coconut trees and a drip irrigation scheme should be implemented with a full subsidy to all farmers. They have also urged the government to provide fertiliser, pesticides, and necessary machinery with full subsidy.

The federation has also placed a specific demand that the regional office of the Coconut Development Board should be shifted back to Coimbatore from Chennai. The western districts produce coconuts on a larger scale with a larger area of land under coconut production.

They have urged the state government to give Tamil Nadu coconut farmers proper training at Coconut Development Board Research Station in Thirumurthy Nagar.

Further, they have demanded a coconut-based sub-industry should be developed. They have also urged the government to take appropriate steps for soap-making companies to use coconut oil.

Moreover, the demand that the goods and services tax (GST) should be abolished for all farm products, should also be extended to coconuts.

NEW FEDERATION FORMED

On June 2, a separate coconut farmers federation was formed under the directive of the AIKS Tamil Nadu state committee. Since then they have held several protests across districts to express their distress towards the government. They broke coconuts and protested against the government’s indifference.

The farmers also raised various local demands. For instance, the protesting farmers in Tirupur insisted on the completion of the Nallaru and Anaimalayar dam projects.

Speaking to NewsClick, Vijaya Kumar, state secretary of the federation and a coconut farmer, said: "Coconut farmers were facing many issues and we were holding protests under the AIKS banner all along. Out of necessity, we have formed a separate association."

He said: "Coconut prices have fallen by 50% in the last few months. A peeled coconut was approximately sold at Rs 24, now it has come down by half to Rs 12 and Rs 10".

"Given the grave situation, a separate association for coconut farmers has been received well. The farmers have reached their tipping point, the government has to intervene at once" he added.

"It is worrying that the government has no vision or plans for coconut farmers. Even after so many protests, there has been no response from their side" Kumar said.

The federation is being formed in 22 districts at present. So far conferences have been held in 10 districts and the respective committees have been formed.

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