As coir industry expands and modernises, new products emerge

Alleppey (Kerala), Feb 3 (IANS) Meet the umbrella that doesn’t ward off rain. On display at the Coir Kerala 2016 event here are umbrellas of varying sizes made of coir which are meant to provide shade from the sun.

Unlike normal umbrellas, those made of coir cannot be used during the rainy season because and it absorbs water becomes heavy when drenched.
“But it is very useful during summer. It can provide a protective shade when you need it,” Revenue and Coir Minister Adoor Prakash said.
You also get them in all sizes, including the garden variety.
The most common products of the coir industry have traditionally been footmats and mattresses. These once came in the original golden coir colour but are now laced with plenty of attractive hues.
Coir is produced from coarse, short fibre extracted from the outer shell of coconuts. The coir umbrella is one of the many products the industry is now producing, as machines increasingly take over the traditional manufacturing process.
Also on display here is an overcoat — made of fabric spun with cotton and coir.
Gardening enthusiasts scouting for an organic, effective and relatively inexpensive substitute to plastic containers can turn to coir-derived Multi-Grow Baskets.
With the largest basket on display at the Coir Kerala 2016 event measuring 42 inches in diameter and capable of accommodating 20-25 different plants together, these handy bins are space-and water-saving tools as well.
“The coir baskets are a new trend and will gain popularity as we move towards a plastic-free world,” Adoor Prakash said. “Also, these can provide us pesticides-free vegetables in the bargain.”
The industry also produces a variety of useful garden implements, including pots and poles.
Not just that. The industry is also becoming smart in its marketing drive. Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee is set to adorn many homes in India and abroad — thanks to Kerala’s innovative coir producers.
The Kerala State Coir Corporation Ltd (KSCC) has designed a wall hanging with Bruce Lee in his famous “Enter the Dragon” pose.
The wall hanging is one of the attractions at the Coir Kerala 2016 event that is set to end on Friday. “We are targeting both the domestic and international markets,” said KSCC chairman Rajendra Prasad.
The highlight of the exhibition is a roof surface cooling system that has already found its way into the market.
Komal Kumar of the Central Coir Research Institute (CCRI), which has developed the technology, said some educational institutions are using the system. “Using such natural methods will help us to reduce the money spent on air-conditioning,” he said.
Among other products which appear to be a huge hit with buyers from India and abroad are vanity and laptop bags, backpacks and coir furniture.
A key by-product in producing coir is fertilser.
“The fertiliser is very effective,” K.R. Anil, director of the National Coir Research and Management Institute, told IANS adding that it was really cheap costing around Rs.7 a kg.
Coir manufacturing is Kerala’s biggest domestic industry, providing a livelihood to hundreds of thousands of people. The introduction of machines has met with considerable success in an industry which traditionally depended on manual labour.
(M.R. Narayan Swamy is in Alleppey at the invitation of Coir Kerala Fair. He can be contacted at [email protected])