Kerala youth crack coconut jinx.
Summary: Breakthrough in turning tender coconut water into powdered form promises big earnings for farmers
Akhel Mathew, Correspondent
Thiruvananthapuram: For years, coconut farmers in Kerala, India's southern state marked by coconut palm-fringed beaches and sprawling coconut plantations in the hinterland, have bemoaned low prices for their produce.
However, now a team of youth from Thrissur district, led by a former techie who has already floated, nurtured and sold two technology outfits, claim to have broken the coconut jinx with a clutch of novel products that has caught international attention, and in turn promises better earnings for coconut farmers.
Antony S Pathadan, a former techie and presently managing director of NaturUp, a company that focuses on food products without artificial flavours or preservatives, says a major breakthrough has been made by getting the tender coconut water into powder form.
With help from the Coconut Development Board, the Central Food Technology Research Institute in Mysore, the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and a coconut products manufacturing unit in Pondicherry, Pathadan's team has developed the powdered form of tender coconut water.
"The long-standing anguish of coconut farmers has been that while diverse beverages that use synthetic ingredients are monopolising retail shelves, nature's own offering of tender coconut water has been completely absent in shops. We knew that cracking the problem would open a market for us and simultaneously help boost the demand for coconut and earnings of coconut farmers", says Pathadan.
Sachets of the product are priced at Rs15 (85 fils) in India, where a tender coconut is priced at Rs35, and in the UAE where tender coconuts cost Dh5 apiece, the sachets have been priced at Dh3.
Kerala government's multiple attempts to promote the coconut farming sector in the past have yielded modest returns, and the recent foray into tapping 'neera', an unfermented drink from coconut palms, has also not taken off in a big way.
Pathadan says the online sales of the tender coconut powder - which he claims is an all-natural product made by spray-drying of tender coconut juice - has found markets in a number of north Indian states.
The company has already got the products on supermarket shelves in Dubai, and is bracing to tap markets including Australia, and has enquiries coming from Keralite communities in distant countries like Brazil and Iceland, says Pathadan.
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