To farm coconuts, farmers will now turn climbers

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BHUBANESWAR: It needs perseverance and determination before one can savour the sweet taste of success, or in this case the coconut water. Climbing the tall trees to pluck coconuts is one different ball game. No wonder those who carry out this difficult task are the most sought after. It is also a major reason why climbers’ cost is a big part of coconut farming. To address this problem, the Coconut Development Board under the Union agriculture ministry has now begun an ambitious drive to train people in climbing coconut trees.

A K Singh, chairman, Coconut Development Board (CDB), said the shortage of climbers is so high that farmers spend a substantial part on hiring them, reducing their profit margin. “That is why our effort to train people to climb coconut trees,” Singh said during an informal interaction on the sidelines of an event to mark World Coconut Day.

A climber takes around Rs 30 to Rs 40 for plucking coconuts from a single tree while a farmer gets up to Rs 6 per coconut. In Odisha, the board plans to train around 200 farmers this year, another senior official said.

The board runs a programme — Friends of Coconut Tree (palm climbing training programme). A climbing device is given to farmers free of cost and they are trained to use the device and climb the trees. The board provides insurance coverage to both trainees and trainers.

“Apart from climbing techniques, the six-day training module involves coconut harvesting operations, spraying and pest control operations, identification of tender nut, seed nut and mature coconut, pollination and hybridization techniques,” the CDB official said.

Singh said by employing various methods to reduce input cost and maximise productivity, India will surpass Brazil in coconut productivity in the world in the next two years.

India is the world’s largest producer of coconut products while its productivity is second to Brazil. India exported coconut items worth Rs 1,450 crore in 2015-16, while the output was worth Rs 2,044 crore.

Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh here on Friday made a veiled attack on the Naveen Patnaik government for its failure to spend central funds provided under the National Horticulture Mission. Addressing an event to mark the World Coconut Day, the minister said the mission had provided Rs 54.45 crore to Odisha in the last financial year (2015-16).

“However, Odisha failed to spend Rs 4.15 crore. If the state doesn’t spend, ultimately the farmers will suffer,” he said. Singh said Odisha will get Rs 49.91 crore towards central share under the National Horticulture Mission this year. “The centre has already released Rs 26.83 crore,” he said.
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Countering Singh, Odisha agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy said the minister’s criticism is laughable. “After cutting down grants under most central schemes, the Union government is now trying to shift the blame on Odisha,” he said.