A vendor segregating coconuts by size at his outlet in Vijayawada. , Photo Credit: KVS Giri
Coconut farmers are in a fix following a steep fall in the prices of coconut in the State.
Leave alone getting a remunerative price, we are struggling to recover the cost of cultivation, farmers said, lamenting that the prices have crashed so hard that a coconut was now hardly fetching ₹6 compared to ₹10 to ₹12 in the past. At present, the price of 1,000 coconuts is around ₹8,000, compared to ₹15,000 to ₹18,000 a couple of months ago. The farmers have to spend ₹3 per piece on plucking and other expenses, they say.
Farmers like Bollu Ramakrishna, Ravi Krishna, Bobba Ramesh, and Ashok (all from erstwhile East and West Godavari districts) say that the overhead costs have increased three to four times in the recent past. A farmer spends ₹42,000 per acre on fertilizer, pesticides etc. However, the prices are not crossing ₹10,800 per quintal. A farmer would avoid losses if the prices were at least ₹12,000 per quintal, they say.
Mr Ramakrishna, a farmer from Chintalapudi area, opines that use of desiccated coconut was also one of the reasons behind the fall in prices. Earlier, restaurants would purchase coconuts in bulk for their daily use, now they were relying on desiccated coconut, he points out.
Mr. Ramesh says that a farmer used to get ₹1 lakh per annum if he possessed about five acres. By cultivating cocoa as intercrop, he would end up making a decent earning. Though the cocoa prices were reasonably good (₹200 per kg on average) this year, the price of coconut is pushing the farmers into losses, he says.
Raghavulu, member of a Farmers’ Producers Organization (FPO), says that there used to be 110 to 150 shops in Ambajipet, a hub for copra business. Now, there are only five to six shops. About 200 tonnes of produce used to flood the market, and now it has come down to 8,000 quintals. Adding to the woes of farmers, coconut yields have also fallen due to widespread and massive attack of pests. Pest infestation due to white fly, poor quality etc are some of the reasons, he says.
AP Rythu Sangham State joint secretary K. Srinivas says that the coconut is cultivated in about 3.50 lakh acres across the State. The cultivation is high in Konaseema, Uddhanam and other places. A farmer spends more than ₹40,000 for cultivation of coconut in one acre. However, he gets not more than ₹25,000 per acre. The farmers are demanding that at least ₹15 per coconut should be paid. But, the traders were not willing to pay citing various reasons. The State and Central governments have to intervene and come to the rescue of the farmers, he says.
The Union Government had fixed the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Fair Average Quality of milling copra at ₹10,860 per quintal and for ball copra at ₹11,750 per quintal for the 2023 season. AP Cooperative Oilseeds Growers Federation Limited (APOILFED) officials say that they would start procurement of copra in the market from September 16. The purchase price would be ₹10,860 per quintal as fixed by the Union government. This season, the plans were afoot to purchase 8,000 tonnes, they say.