Coir pith, the core of the coconut fibre, has long been considered an agro-waste. For India today, it is a foreign exchange earner. India exported over 67,000 tonnes, valued at INR 538 Mio. (about EUR 935,000), during 2006/07, and it is much sought after as organic manure in horticulture and for soil remediation. All Indian exports of coir products amounted to more than 168,000 tonnes or estimated INR 6 Mrd. (about EUR 104 Mio.)
Experts of all A.C. Jose, Chairman of the Indian Coir Board and former MP told Indias’s national newspaper The Hindu that among the 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which account for 86 per cent of coconut production in the world, India is the largest producer and exporter of coir products. India exports to 97 countries with the highest volume being to the U.S. at 41 per cent. Though Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and now Vietnam are primary coir producing countries, India is the leader in value addition.
Mr. Jose said the Coir Board has facilitated technology, innovation and marketing strategies to make value-added products ranging from floor coverings, mattresses, coir ply, and geotextiles. “Coir pith is generated in large quantities in major coir production centres. Extraction of one kg of coir fibre will leave 2 kg of coir pith-dust, which till recently was considered a waste product, and left to rot. Now, coir pith is precious manure with applications in soil bio-engineering.”
Coir composites or coir ply has emerged as “tomorrow’s timber”, and is being manufactured by a company in Bangalore, while a Kuwait-based company has bought pith technology for $ 44,000.
The coir industry is the largest cottage industry in Kerala, employing nearly 640.000 people. Coir has become the eco-friendly option in sectors like mining, manufacturing and construction and development projects. Geotextiles, which are totally biodegradable, are being used to prevent soil erosion and guard against landslides by mines in Bellary, and in the hills of the northeast. Geotextiles have been used by the Konkan Railway to pack the soil in place and prevent sinking during the monsoon.