Positive Hope ahead for the Coir Industry in Kerala
The Coir Industry has been around in some shape or the other since time immemorial. Loved and enjoyed across the world, this particular golden hued natural fibre is not only beautiful, it has great strength. Made from coconut husk, Kerala is the world leader in the coir sector. Understandably with its rich natural bounty, this state which gets its name from the Malyalam phrase meaning “land of coconuts” has a 580 km long coast fringed by palm trees.
Kerala has been a key driver to the more than three fold growth in coir exports over the last decade. In Alappuzha, referred popularly to be the coir capital of the world, one would find thousands of women carrying heaps of coconut husk to feed the machines that turn it into thread. All their hard work has paid off as what was a Rs. 473 crore worth industry in 2005 is today at Rs 3,500 crore in the domestic market alone. Thanks to Kerala’s contribution, India’s share in global coir production is more than two third!
Changes in the Coir Industry:
Traditionally, the method of retting where there would be soaking of coconut husk in water for over six months to soften it was core to the method to produce the best quality fibre. This was banned by the pollution control board. Defibering was done by women workers by beating the husk. Today, there are defibering machines.
While earlier generations often struggled with payment issues and the drudgery associated with the coir sector, the government measures such as e-payment and electricity run spinning machines of newer designs have made it an attractive employment option.
In the recent past, the Coir Industry had faced a setback stemming from dis-interest due to the above discussed drudgery associated and the flourishing of other natural fibres such as cotton, hemp and flax. But what gives great positive hope ahead for the Coir Industry in Kerala is a range of brand new products and machines to make the yarn.
Getting better with new machines and new designs:
These machines by virtue of the finer details of the spread create the best mats in the World. With these machines in India, a leap in coir production is expected. Afterall, more than two thirds of global volume of coir and its products are created in India. As discussed before, Kerala accounts for a major chunk of it at 85% of it all. Last year as per the Coir Board under the Union Ministry for micro, small and medium enterprises, India exported coir and coir products worth Rs 1,630 crore.
This is poised to reach even better numbers.
At the annual international industry event on coir and other natural fibres, Coir Kerala 2016 held in Alappuzha in February a brand new machine for spinning yarn claimed a capacity for producing 35kg of yarn, a little more than double of the 16 kg that simple motorised machines currently used by workers produce. Other machines that show promise in this context are a new defibering machine which would process husk from 9000 coconuts a day and a low cost, automatic power loom. Currently workers stand for eight hours each and every day hand weaving carpets.
The apex organisation of coir cooperative societies, Coirfed in Kerala are also weighing in with market friendly products. For instance in response to the proposal of International Yoga Day by prime minister Narendra Modi in 2014, Coirfed put together a great design for a new mat for yoga exercises. Affordable and capturing the imagination of international business partners, these sleek coir yoga mats have already found their niche market in Germany.
Organic farmers in North America have caught on to coir pith as an ideal growing medium and healthy replacement for peat moss. The global market in automotive, building, architecture and leisure sectors are receptive to natural fibres especially coir.
Major coir products for exports today are rugs, carpets, fibre and coir pith with newer innovative designs for accessories and household items not far behind.
And Kerala with its natural availability, great government measures and access to new machinery is poised to capture it all.