Thiruvananthapuram, January 28, 2014
Coir Kerala 2014, the fourth edition of the world’s biggest trade event on coir and natural fibres, will be held in Alappuzha from February 1-5, 2014, with a line-up of new products and machinery designed to drive up production and exports.
The event will be inaugurated by Defence Minister A K Antony at a ceremony presided over by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at the EMS Stadium in Alappuzha, State Minister for Revenue and Coir Adoor Prakash announced at a press conference here yesterday.
Around 160 foreign delegates from more than 46 countries and nearly 100 buyers from across India are expected to take part in the trade fair which targets export orders worth Rs 150 crores for the coir and natural fibres industry.
According to the organisers, the annual event has become a significant contributor to the increase in revenues from coir exports. In 2012-13, total coir exports were worth around Rs. 1,166 crore, up from Rs 1,052 crore the previous year – 70% of which was Kerala’s contribution.
“While production and exports have seen a definite increase, our primary focus continues to be improving the lives of the workers in the coir industry and to create more employment in this sector,” Mr Prakash said.
“The government has raised the income support scheme amount for coir workers from just Rs 150 three years ago to Rs 260 now, but we are aware that it is still below the earnings in many other skilled sectors and we are looking to address that disparity," he said.
At Coir Kerala 2014, which is being organised with the support of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, there will be 250 exhibition stalls across the national and international pavilion showcasing a range of fibre products and the increasing product diversity in the industry.
Some of the newly developed products include a collection of handicrafts and souvenirs; sound-absorbing materials designed for architecture and interior designing; and environment-friendly coir geo-cells that prevent slope erosion and enable slope land cultivation at the same time.
Also showcased at the fair will be new machinery and technologies designed to improve productivity in the sector. Among them a pneumatic loom for weaving geotextiles and a revolutionary new defibering mill, developed by the National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI), the coordinating agency for Coir Kerala 2014.
The defibering mill developed by NCRMI at its R&D facility in Thiruvananthapuram is designed to address the crippling shortage of raw material faced by the industry today. Fibre scarcity will be the discussion point at Coir Kerala 2014 with a series of seminars organised to help develop solutions for the problem.
For the first time in Coir Kerala, a committee consisting of exporters, policymakers and subject experts is being constituted to see how the recommendations at these seminars and workshops can be put to practical use to aid product diversification, Ms Rani George, Secretary, Coir, said.
She added that the department was in talks with the Coconut Development Board to create a mechanism where farmers’ societies from whom the board procures coconuts are able to supply coir fibre. ‘The husk usually goes waste for them, we are looking to see if we can supply defibering machines to these farmers’ societies and buy back processed fibre and pith from them,” she said.
The Coir Department has been already been actively taking steps to address the crippling raw materials shortage that the coir industry in Kerala today faces.
Between November 2013 and January 2014 the government procured 14,000 quintals of coir fibre and distributed them through Coirfed to coir cooperatives at the standard rate of Rs 20/kg of raw fibre at a time when the market prices had soared to between Rs 26 and Rs 28.
The Rs 12 crore worth of subsidisation has been instrumental in stabilising the prices of coir yarn and other end products in both the domestic market and for exports.
After being sidelined for decades by plastics and other synthetic material, coir and natural fibres are making a comeback, thanks to the growing emphasis the world over for sustainable living and increased focus on R&D to add value and find newer uses for these natural products.
It was in 2011 that the Government of Kerala initiated the Coir Kerala programme to revive the crisis ridden coir sector, by boosting production and exports. Coir Kerala has today morphed into an annual trade fair, facilitating not just buyer-seller interactions, but acting as a platform to showcase the newest products and latest technologies and machinery.
The international event also brings together scientists, researchers and policy-makers to discuss strategies and new projects to create jobs, improve the conditions of workers, increase productivity and earnings across the industry.
But the most noteworthy aspect of Coir Kerala is the active participation in the event of thousands of coir workers in an around Alappuzha, which is the nerve centre of the coir industry in Kerala.
The preliminary stages of a number of skill contests and other competitions for coir workers are already underway. Coir Kerala will be a venue for the final rounds of many of these competitions and the winners will be given prizes at the valedictory function which will be inaugurated by Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.
The key buyer-seller meet enabling one-to-one interactions will be held on February 3 and on the final day of the event on February 5, Mr Prakash will interact directly with coir workers at a morning session expected to draw more than 2,000 people.
Cultural and entertainment programmes, which have proven to be major crowd-pullers, will be held on all five days of the event.