KASARGOD: When M A Haris, who hails from Mulleria which is a remote village 25 km from Kasargod, dreamed to make desiccated coconut powder fit for export, money was a major problem before him. The machinery alone will cost `80 lakh to `1 crore, a huge stumbling block for a small-time entrepreneur.
That was when he approached the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasargod, which was already making moves to change the game in agribusiness in this coconut-rich district. CPCRI’s agribusiness incubation centre is taking one giant step ahead from just mentoring and providing space -- the institute has set up a full-fledged unit to house the machinery needed to produce desiccated coconut powder. “Most of the incubation centres provide guidance and office space. We wanted to be different and of real help to the agribusiness entrepreneurs,” said Dr K Muralidharan, Principal Scientist, Head, Social Sciences.
Now for a rent of `7,000 per month, Haris can start his business, he says. CPCRI has also set up machinery to produce virgin coconut oil and coconut chips. Two entrepreneurs have signed up to use the facility. One of them has started production -- Vaiga virgin coconut oil and Vaiga hair oil -- from the incubation centre. The institute is planning to formally commission the incubator -- Business Planning and Development Unit -- on August 20. In an earlier avatar, started last June, the incubation unit was providing technology, technical assistance and consultancy. “In that period, we have incubated 20 startups,” Muralidharan said.
That venture went into a coma after funding dried up. It was a World Bank fund initiative. “Then we thought of moving ahead and setting up a one-stop solution for agribusiness entrepreneurs,” said the head of the social sciences division. The institute restricted itself to three value-added products because of limited funding. The virgin coconut oil unit was set up at a cost nearly `10 lakh and coconut chips unit at a cost of `4 lakh. “By providing them with machinery and space, small-time entrepreneurs will not have to worry about investment. Even if their businesses do not take off, they will not incur big losses,” said Muralidharan.
Having said that, all the three products for which CPCRI is providing infrastructure support -- desiccated coconut powder, virgin coconut oil and coconut chips -- have a ready market in West Asia and Europe.
A Malayali marine scientist, who was in Portugal, said that 100 grams of desiccated coconut powder is sold for 1.5 euros (nearly `125). In India, it sells for around `500 per kg. One litre of virgin coconut oil cost around `1,000 per litre.
The Centre is in the final stage of sanctioning `1.5 crore to set up a centenary building at Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasargod. The premier institute will turn 100 in 2016. Dr K Muralidharan, Principal Scientist, Head, Social Sciences, said that the centenary building would be an arecanut tissue culture block.