Kerala coir products gain market share in Africa, Latin America

February 3rd, 2012 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 3 (IANS) Coir, Kerala’s golden fibre, is seeing its international market share, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, growing following a world-wide shift towards eco-friendly products.

The popularity of value-added products like coir pith and coco lawn is proving lucrative for the coir industry, a traditional and key sector of the state’s economy, which is expecting Rs.10 billion worth of exports this financial year.

Keeping this in mind, the government is organising the second International Coir Festival, beginning Friday in Alappuzha. Officials said buyers from 32 countries would be exposed to new eco-friendly products at the six-day trade fair.

“Right now coir pith and coco lawn are the sought after products mainly because of being eco-friendly,” said K.R. Anil, director of the government-run National Coir Research Management Institute here.

Coir pith is a soil conditioner and not a fertiliser. Anil said it is the by-product after coir is made. “And to make it a soil conditioner, the natural chemical in the coconut husk called ‘lignin’ has to be removed. The uniqueness of this is it absorbs water and if this is used especially in water scarce areas, one needs to water the plant once in two days.”

The product is not expensive and is liked especially in European countries where ‘peat mose’, which was commonly used as a soil conditioner, has now been banned.

One kilogram of coir pith costs just Rs.4.25 in the market.

The MiddleEast is the biggest market for Coco lawn because it is a readymade natural lawn and is made of coir pith, coir geotextiles, sand and carpet grass.

“This can be laid quickly and it can be rolled out as it comes like a carpet. Today the market price is Rs.460 per square metre,” said Anil.

Another product, which would be on display is the acoustic barrier, made out of processed coir, used in interior decoration. Its cost ranges from Rs.120 to Rs.460 per square metre.

The organised coir industry in Kerala dates back to mid-19th century when an Irishman, James Darragh, set up the country’s first coir factory at Alappuzha. Today, coir and coir products of Kerala are said to be the finest in the world.

Said state Minister for Coir Adoor Prakash: “This time our main focus is on marketing. Through this event we expect to achieve Rs.1,000 crore in exports besides Rs.2,000 crore in the domestic market by the end of this fiscal.”

He said buyers from African countries like Tanzania and Zambia had shown interest in coir products.

Rani George, special secretary in the Department of Coir, said the fair will have 220 stalls displaying various products.

(Sanu George can be contacted at sanu.g@ians.in)

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