In Kerala, the coconut is harvested when it is ripe enough to make copra. Although karik has been declared as the official drink of Kerala, harvesting for the sale of karik has not become popular here. Charcoal from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka accounts for a good portion of what is sold here. We have the attitude that selling as charcoal is cheap. Also, we find it a great difficulty to tie the karikukulas down on ropes and so on. But in these days when the prices of coconut, copra and coconut oil are falling sharply, it is better to sell it as charcoal.
Even today, the price of coconut is determined based on the price of copra and coconut oil. Whatever the reason, the price of coconut oil falls, it affects the price of coconut. But none of this affects the price of charcoal. Ilanir prices are always higher than coconut prices. Now the minimum retail price of charcoal is Rs.50. But you can get coconut for 16-17 rupees. The demand for charcoal is increasing.
Selecting five or ten coconuts suitable for charcoal and tying the 7-month-old bunches down on a rope may seem like a big challenge. But comparing the price of charcoal and coconut, it is not a loss if the cost of harvesting is more. The traders themselves will harvest the charcoal. When a share of the total production goes to charcoal, the coconut and copra supply to the market will decrease. It will raise the price of coconut oil.
Farmers in Bengal sell 90 percent of their produce as fresh water. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the other major coconut-growing states, sell about 25 percent of their production as charcoal. Farmers in Kerala should also change their attitude. Then at least in summer we can sell it in the market as charcoal and get a good price. It will be more effective if farmers organize locally and collect charcoal and sell it in nearby cities. Some of these associations have started functioning in Kerala.
In each farm, the coconuts suitable for harvesting the sap should be marked and set aside. Chavakkad orange, Malayan yellow and Malayan green short varieties are best suited for charcoal. These are easy to harvest. Among the tall coconuts, some shorter species should also be planted for charcoal. The market can be captured only if there is enough production.
A word to agricultural researchers and institutions: You must urgently develop tools and technologies that make harvesting water easier.