May 29, 2017
The making of coir ropes is on the wane. This condition of intestacy is making A Rathnam, son of C Azhakar who came to Mathampatty from Madurai, struggle to make both ends meet. To add to the woes is the government apathy towards this sector.
It has been 30 years since A Rathnam along with his wife R Pushpa has been involved in coir business. “The government is totally ignoring this sector. This is even though the coir minister is from the city,” says A Rathnam.
The market here is flooded by material from Pollachi, bringing down prices heavily and wholesalers quote very low. Fortunately, coir from Madurai goes to Tirunelveli, he says.
Raw material supply is also an issue for those in the sector. Coconut husk is bought from a local factory at Rs 15-25 a kg. Rates vary on the basis of quality and dry ones costs less. At one go, he buys material for around Rs 600. He sells in the market for Rs.40 for 25 kilos. This is then soaked in water and beaten to get the fibre.
“We sell all kind of ropes from coir to plastic to thread. Comparatively, coir ropes cost less. A 6-metre bundle of normal size coir rope costs Rs 6 when an 8-metre plastic one costs Rs30. Thread-made rope costs higher at Rs 200 a kg,” says a shopkeeper, Vishnu.
Medium size coir rope will cost Rs 30 and rates go up to Rs 250 on the basis of size, he adds.
Each rope has its specialties and use, points out shop owner Jayapandian. Plastic ropes are not used for in knotting logs or planks at construction sites nor for thatching palm leaves for house roofs, he says. Supporting him, Rathnam adds that environment-friendly concepts are yet to catch up with people who still use metallic wires for support creepers which can damage the plant.
Despite being ranked third in global area under cultivation for coconuts, the coir industry is struggling for survival, say experts in the industry which is into export of coir mats and rugs, mainly to the US and European Union. There is lack of good quality husk to support the sector.
Coir mats, mattings, rugs and carpets are of high in demand abroad and fetch good margins, Federation of Indian Coir Exporters’ Association secretary general Sajan B Nair told Covai Post. “Presently, mats are not being manufactured in Tamil Nadu due to lack of expertise,” he added.
The Government is trying to promote the organisation by coming up with new policies. The sector is awaiting action on the Coir Board’s Incentive Scheme for Technology Up-gradation’s proposal to the government. “If it comes through, it will be very good. It has 20 per cent subsidy and up to Rs 12.5 crore investment support. This should also prove beneficial to the infrastructure and investment sectors,” he added.
The government needs to provide quality coir yarn. Despite mechanisation, hand-made yarn is being used which tells on product quality, Sajan said.