The coconut has shrunk over the last three years, in terms of size and yield, due to continuous dry spells and the spread of diseases. So much so that a committee studying the situation has recommended that no new plantations should be allowed in rain-fed, non-irrigated areas.
Coconuts are big business in Karnataka, with an annual turnover of Rs 2,100 crore. They are grown over 1.65 lakh hectares across seven districts.
A Central team headed by Union horticulture commissioner Gorak Singh visited coconut plantations across seven districts in the state in the last week of July.
It found that the number of nuts per palm, on an average, has come down from 80 prior to 2010, to less than 10. And the average size of the nuts are a mere 100-200 grams as against 400-600 grams earlier.
The committee has recommended: “No new coconut plantations should be taken up in un-irrigated/rain fed areas.”
It has suggested that diseased and dried palms be pulled out by root and alternative horticulture crops like mango, guava, jackfruit, jamun, tamarind, custard apple, pomegranate, which are less water consuming, be introduced. The team visited Tumkur, Hassan, Chikmagalur, Mandya, Ramanagar, Mysore and Chamarajanagar.
Additional chief secretary and development commissioner V Umesh told Express: “Coconut plantations on 15,789 hectares are dead in a total of 1,65,349 hectares. Yield has come down by 50 per cent on 1.49 lakh hectares. As many as 2.40 lakh farmers have been impacted.”
Horticulture commissioner M K Shankarlinge Gowda, who was also part of the committee, told Express: “The total number of coconuts produced annually in Karnataka is 350 crore nuts, with a turnover of Rs 2,100 crore at the rate of Rs 6 a nut.”
The committee has recommended that wherever irrigation facility is assured in existing coconut plantations, attempts need to be made to rejuvenate and replant the palms.