THANJAVUR: Dearth of tree climbers has affected the harvest of coconuts from groves that dot the coastal blocks in the district.
Changes in lifestyle and the urge for a better livelihood have driven the younger generation of tree climbers to opt out for various other professions other than what their parents did for a living.
Following the Cauvery water imbroglio in the 1970s, large tracts of land in the tail ends of irrigation canals, particularly, in the coastal stretch of the district were converted into coconut groves. It is estimated that coconut groves are found in around 45,000 acres in the district. Of this, around 80 per cent is concentrated in the coastal belt of Peravurani, Sethubavachathiram, Pattukkottai and Madukkur blocks.
Punalvasal Savarimuthu, a farmer from Peravurani, said, “Coconuts have to be harvested in 45-60 days. However, for want of workers, sometimes we have to wait for three to four months to harvest the yield,” he says. Leaving ripe coconuts on the tree for more than the stipulated time is not good for the tree, he added.
An officer of the agriculture department said that if coconuts are not plucked when they were ripe, they will shrivel and fall off the tree after a few days.
“Such fallen nuts cannot be used for domestic consumption. They have to be used only for making copra,” he added.
Due to non-availability of tree climbers, farmers are unable to market nuts when prices are high. Thus their income is adversely affected, the official added. However, he said there would not be any adverse impact on the yield per tree.
Various reasons are attributed to the dwindling number of tree climbers. The younger generation of tree climbers are educated, and opt for other vocations, said Mohammed, a farmer from Mallippattinam area. He also added that nowadays, farmers use long bamboo poles attached with a hook to pluck coconuts instead of climbing the trees.