Op-Ed: A Ray of Hope for the Fani-hit Coconut Farmers

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: In a significant move, union agriculture minister, Narendra Singh Tomar has promised additional assistance to coconut farmers whose crop was hit by cyclone Fani.

The assurance must be music to the ears of farmers in areas like Chandanpur and Sakhigopal in Puri that bore the brunt of Fani that made landfall in the temple town on May 3. Around 50,000 coconut farmers in these areas suffered losses to the tune of crores of rupees with thousands of coconut trees getting uprooted and others losing their crown.

The cyclone laid waste huge coconut plantations. The destruction was visible as one drove along national highway 306 from Bhubaneswar to Puri in the immediate wake of the tragedy. Coconut trees in acres lay flattened on both sides of the highway.

Having tender coconuts on way to Puri has been a habit with tourists visiting the temple town. Days after the gale struck Puri coast one could see piles of green coconuts along the roadside as one approached the temple town but they had lost their taste. Sellers, though, were desperate to get rid of their stocks which had begun to rot.

Coir industry, too, has been hit by the cyclone. This has resulted in a major livelihood loss as thousands of people in areas like Satsankh and Satyavadi used to depend on it. Now their chances of finding alternative employment appear bleak.

All such people will find union minister’s words quite reassuring. “ We are aware of the plight of coconut farmers in the state. We are eager to extend more help to them. The state government should follow due process so that we can grant more funds through the Coconut Development Board(CDB) and the union agriculture ministry,” the minister has been quoted as saying by the local media.

While the CDB is reported to be extending financial support of around Rs.30 crore to the Fani hit coconut farmers of the state Tomar has laid special emphasis on value addition and proper marketing to commercialise coconut farming.

As it is the Centre has grand plans to promote coconut farming with CDB stressing skill development of farmers. Currently there are 484 coconut-based industries set up in different parts of the country with Centre’s support. The Centre intends to double the number by 2022.

Odisha being the fifth major coconut growing state of the country should take this farming much more seriously as it has tremendous employment generation potential. Apart from production and sale of coconuts the production of articles made of coir can be a major source of revenue for the state.

Earlier ropes were the only major coir product in the state and also in many other parts of the country. But now the industry has diversified and become more sophisticated. A variety of products are being fashioned out of coir and being marketed across the country. Hence union minister’s emphasis on commercialisation of the coconut trade is quite understandable. Odisha can benefit a lot of from his advice provided it comes up with an effective plan to boost this trade. The Centre is there to help out the state.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)