ROQUE DIAS | NT
MARGAO: Despite the government’s claims of attempts being made to revive agriculture in the state and an effort being made to double farmer income by 2020, production of coconuts in Goa decreased in 2017-18 compared to the previous financial year.
According to reliable sources, the figures in the current financial year are also not very encouraging.
The agriculture department statistics indicate that in 2016-17, the state had 25,913 hectares of land under coconut cultivation with a production of 132.16 million nuts with an average of 5,100 nuts per hectare. However, the yield went down to 131.63 million nuts in 2017-18 despite 26,169 hectares of land being under coconut cultivation. Nuts per hectare were 5,030, which is less than half of the national average of 12,500 nuts.
“I feel each legislator should plant 1,000 coconut saplings in his respective constituency area,’’ Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai suggested as one of the measures to increase the yield. His department had recently organised a state-level seminar on the issue in Margao.
According to director of Agriculture, Madhav Kelkar, there are various reasons for the decline in coconut production in the state right from the increasing cost of labour to the tenant-landlord disputes, damages caused by pests and non-availability of coconut pluckers.
“The department is encouraging coconut farmers to go in for dwarf and hybrid coconut trees, as this would resolve the issue of lack of pluckers and simultaneously produce better yield. We are in constant touch with the coconut development board to this effect,” Kelkar said adding that soon a prospective and comprehensive plan for coconut development would be prepared in the next financial year. “All this is aimed at improving coconut yield in Goa,” Kelkar said.
“We are facing a lot of problems in getting coconut pluckers. The coconut pluckers, who are available charge Rs 80 to Rs 100 to climb one coconut tree and when they are hired, they do not perform the job properly; at times we are helpless. We end up spending more on a plucker per tree than the cost of the coconuts on that tree,” said a landlord from Benaulim Franco Barreto. Coconuts of Benaulim are famous all over the state. Another landlord from Loutolim C F Pereira opined that marketing avenues need to be created. “There has to be quick sale of the nuts, as we cannot take the coconuts to the market because they are usually produced in thousands. The people who come to my residence bargain for a low price and we usually are forced to settle for the price or else the nuts get dried up. Secondly, I feel that the department has to adopt a mechanism for an annual free checkup of these coconut trees. This will help reduce damages to the trees,” he said.
Many coconut cultivators from Salcete taluka felt that the agriculture department must lend an ear to their individual problems, as cases differ from farmer to farmer. They said that accordingly, the government could come out with solutions to their problems. Many farmers were ready to pay for the service rather than depend on schemes.
In the year 2013-14, state’s coconut production was 128.15 million nuts. It decreased by nearly a million in 2014-15. In 2015-16, the production, however, increased to 129.35 million nuts.