Coconut output drops 10% to lowest in 4 years

Kochi: Coconut output in India, the largest producer of the nut in the world, shrunk 10 per cent year-on-year in 2018-19 to its lowest level in the past four years.

Coconut production fell to 21,384 million nuts compared with 23,798 million nuts in the previous year as per the Union agriculture ministry’s third advance estimate. After sliding to a decade-low of 20,439 million nuts in 2014-15, coconut production had been steadily growing until last year.

The slump has been attributed to erratic weather patterns of heavy rains and drought as well as general neglect of the crop especially in Kerala, the top coconut producer in India. The state, along with Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, account for nearly 85 per cent of the country’s total output. While Kerala production stood at 7,631 million nuts, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had an output of 5,311 million and 5,123 million nuts, respectively.

The average productivity plunged 13.5 per cent to 9,815 nuts per hectare. “In Kerala, unscientific farming methods, neglect of the crop owing to fluctuating prices, high labour cost and irregular weather have all contributed to the decline.

Inadequate rains in Karnataka led to high incidence of pests and diseases, resulting in worst productivity decline of 31 per cent. Tamil Nadu experienced consecutive years of drought,’’ said Coconut Development Board statistical officer Vasanthakumar VC. Andhra Pradesh, which is rapidly gaining steam in coconut cultivation, now has the highest productivity in the country at 13,563 nuts per hectare.

“We were expecting the productivity to go above 15,000 nuts per hectare in the main producing states during the year,” Vasanthakumar said.

Excess rains in the current year may hold good for the overall coconut output next year, though heavy rains did cause damage in major coconut growing districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur in Kerala, unlike in 2018.

Coconut prices doubled to Rs 40 per kg last year on account of poor availability, which also led to coconut oil prices soaring to a new high.