Coconut farmers in the district are seriously contemplating to raze down their standing crops, frustrated over the minimum prices offered for their produce. They also don't see any prospective of the prices going up in near future. One of the growers, N Palanisamy from Melur, who has more than 1,000 trees in his farm stopped harvesting coconuts for the last few months due to low prices. "What is the point in harvesting when the workers demand Rs 15 to 20 per tree when a coconut is sold for just Rs 1.50? I may end up just paying the labour costs of harvesting, so I left the coconuts on the trees for last four months," he rues.
Recently, when the farmers' grievance redressal meeting was held at the collectorate, coconut farmers poured out their miseries informing the officials that they will start cutting down the trees due to the low prices. They also informed that they will stage a demonstration in Melur against the low prices and demanded the government to procure the coconuts like paddy.

"We started raising coconut trees after other crops turned unviable due to lack of Periyar water and labour crunch. We thought, coconuts, which require less intensive labour and water may help the farmers but the lack of prices frustrate us and we don't see any scope in keeping the coconut trees," says R Mayathevar from Munduvelampatti in Chellampatti block. "Many farmers in the district have abandoned the crops, not tending them properly. Coconuts should be harvested once in 40 days, but many don't stick to this schedule anymore," he added.

V R Muthupeyandi from Tamil Nadu Farmers Association says that they get about Rs 2.60 to Rs 3 for every coconut but that includes the transportation, loading and labour and the farmer may hardly get Rs 1.50 after all the deductions. Besides, they should also deploy a worker in the farm, meet the irrigation cost and other expenses on fertilisers and pesticides. "Some of the farmers adapt to leasing the farms to coconut merchants on annual basis. But direct farming is always beneficial for the farmers," he added.

The farmers demanded the district administration to set up a direct procurement centre for coconuts as well as koppara (dried coconuts). "Most of the districts like Erode, Theni, Dindigul have set up a procurement centre for coconuts. Hence, we urge the district administration to establish one and procure the coconuts from the farmers", K Devaraj, President of Madurai Farmers Association said.

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