Odisha’s coconut farmers demand mandis and allied industries

Paddy and coconut are Odisha’s most popular crops. Coconut is a much-favoured crop in coastal areas of the state. So far, farmers have directly approached traders. They feel a marketplace set up by the government will improve the lives of coconut growers.

Mohammad Fahad
| Updated: June 17th, 2021

Nimapada (Puri), Odisha

Odisha is known for its paddy cultivation, but in the coastal areas coconut is a much-valued crop. Most farmers in Odisha’s Puri district have coconut groves, which is their primary source of income. Coconut is a high-yielding crop with a low risk of loss. So far, farmers have directly dealt with traders. However, they feel the setting up of a coconut market, a government mandi, will largely benefit coconut and related businesses.

Bhakta Bandhu Das, a farmer from Daspurushottam Pur village in Nimapada block of Puri district, owns about 500 coconut trees.  “I had over a thousand earlier, but cyclone [Fani, in 2019] caused tremendous destruction. Half my grove was uprooted. Many of us lost coconut trees,” 50-year-old Das told Gaon Connection.

“Each year, I harvest between fifteen and twenty thousand coconuts from these five hundred trees,” said Das. He gets between Rs 10 and Rs 20 per coconut, selling directly to coconut traders. 

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“If we have a marketplace [a government mandi] for coconut producers, we will have more business opportunities. The government should promote the trading of coconut products, oil and other items to boost the income of coconut farmers,” Das felt.

Coconut farm. Photo: Mohammad Fahad

Popular crop on the coast

India has a long coastline of 7,500 kilometres and its coastal areas account for 90 per cent of coconut production, because coconut farming requires  sandy or loamy soil. Coconut is also a popular crop in Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts in Odisha.

June and July are ideal for planting coconut. The plant needs urea, phosphate and potash to flourish and produce fruit, said Das. Farmers apply fertilisers twice a year — in January- February and November-December. Coconut begins fruiting in three years.

“Coconut farmers suffered huge losses in the aftermath of cyclone Fani. Unfortunately, many farmers did not get any relief,” Akshay Kumar from Jagatsinghpur, who is the national convener of Navnirman Kisan Sangathan, a farmers’ organisation working in more than 15 districts of Odisha, told Gaon Connection.

Also read: A cyclone robbed my kaju katli: Farmers in leading cashew producer Odisha pummelled by Cyclone Fani

Coconut cultivation and trade fall under the unorganised sector. If the industry is regularised, farmers’ incomes and quality of life will improve significantly, said Kumar.

Providing support price

Under the Price Support Scheme, the Central Government procures copra in partnership with states. According to data from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution, 5,089 metric tonnes of copra were purchased from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during the 2020-21 harvest season. A payout of Rs 524 million on minimum support price benefited 3,961 farmers.

Also Read: Cyclone Fani is gone. The reporters are gone. The politicians are gone. Odisha’s disaster has just begun

The Fani storm caused a loss of approximately one lakh crore rupees in Odisha. Gaon Connection had conducted a field investigation on the impact of Fani. Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi told Gaon Connection in May 2019 that clubbing all losses together — power sector, horticulture and agriculture, fisheries, water supply systems, forest cover, livelihoods, etc — the state has suffered a loss of over Rs 100,000 crore.

Read the original in Hindi here.