Kerala Co-operative department takes the export route to empower farmers

Minister Vasavan to flag off the first consignment from Vallarpadam Transhipment Terminal on Tuesday | 30 collectives chosen for processing value-added agri products.
The agricultural processing unit of Kakkoor Cooperative Society
The agricultural processing unit of Kakkoor Cooperative SocietyPhoto | Express

KOCHI: In an attempt to provide relief to farmers, who are struggling to survive due to increasing input rates and declining prices, the cooperation department will start exporting value-added agriculture products. The first consignment will be flagged off from Vallarpadam Container Transhipment Terminal in Kochi by Cooperation Minister V N Vasavan at 10 am on Tuesday.

“We are trying to establish a market for Kerala’s agricultural products in foreign countries. We have selected 30 cooperatives for processing quality value-added agricultural products. We have entered into an agreement with an agency to export 12 tonnes of products. The first consignment is from three societies. Next month, we will be exporting products manufactured by all 30 cooperatives to European countries,” Vasavan told TNIE.

Tapioca with masala, banana vacuum fry, roasted coconut oil and dried jackfruit produced by Varappetty Cooperative Society; frozen tapioca and dried tapioca produced by Kakkoor Cooperative Society; and tea dust by Thankamany Cooperative Society are being exported to the USA in the first consignment.

Kothamangalam-based Madathil Exporters, which has been exporting agricultural products for the past 25 years, has taken over the responsibility to take the products to the American market. The second consignment with products from more cooperative societies will be exported in the first week of July.

“The minister had convened a meeting of cooperative societies to discuss exporting value-added agricultural products in January. We have plans to help other cooperative societies to produce quality products. As Varappetty Cooperative Society was the first to start exports, the minister asked me to coordinate the export project. The department will be opening a Coperative Mart in Kochi which will secure an export licence for the purpose,” said M G Ramakrishnan, former president of Varappetty Cooperative Society.

“We have imported a dehydration plant from Malaysia to process fruits. The technology was sourced from the Kerala Agricultural University. The banana fruit is sliced, dehydrated and processed in organic coconut oil produced in our own unit. For dried tapioca with masala, we sourced the recipe from abroad. We had sent consignments to the US and New Zealand, and have already gained the customers’ trust. We have exported around Rs 1.5 crore worth products to Australia, the USA, the UK, New Zealand and Kuwait during the past two years,” said Ramakrishnan.

The Thankamany Cooperative Society established Thankamany Cooperative Tea Factory in 2017 with an investment of Rs 12 crore in a bid to save small-scale tea farmers from the exploitation of tea factories. The Tea Board extended a grant of Rs 1.5 crore to the project. The society declared a base price of Rs 12 per kg which forced other players also to give better prices to the farmers.

The factory has an installed capacity to process 15,000 tonnes of tea leaf per day. During the season time, it functions round the clock in two shifts. The factory was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on November 26, 2017. The company has been exporting 25 tonnes of tea to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar for the past four years. Besides, it sells green tea, dust tea, and hotel blend tea cross the state under the brand name Sahya.

“As the tea market is static, the profit margin is limited. But we provide the best price for tea leaf to the farmers. The procurement price on Saturday was Rs 19 per kg. The factory has been making a profit for the past three years,” said marketing manager Vimal Ambady. The factory is managed by a panel led by society president Romeo Sebastian and secretary Sunish K Soman.

The Kakkoor Cooperative Society has installed state-of-the-art machinery for processing of fruits and vegetables at an investment of Rs 8 crore. The factory started functioning on January 26.

“We have installed a blast freezer which can cool one tonne of fruits and vegetables to minus 40 degree Celsius and a cold storage facility which can keep 30 tonnes of products at minus 18 degrees Celsius. There is a dehydration drier which removes moisture from the products and 1,000 kg of products can be processed at a time. There is a vacuum drier as well. The products are marketed under the brand name KASCO. Our products include green coconut oil, dried tapioca, frozen tapioca and dried jackfruit. We are planning to expand our product base with dried pineapple and other fruits,” said Kakkoor Cooperative Society president Anil Cheriyan. The company will be exporting 25 tonnes of products to the Gulf countries in the first week of July.

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