Riding through the coconut plantations in Pollachi

As I was in Coimbatore and had some free time, I decided to explore a bit around Pollachi. Of many things, Pollachi is famous for its coconuts. Most tender coconuts sold in Chennai and other cities in TN are often sourced from Pollachi (of course there will be a little local supply). Thus we can call Pollachi the Coconut capital of Tamil Nadu. When in Pollachi, I had great time riding around, particularly in between large coconut plantations. I didn’t do any great deal of research or something else- only rode around on a bike taking lots of pictures. This post shares some photos of coconut plantations along with some relevant information related to coconuts.

Pollachi tender coconuts are popular because of their taste, consistent size/quantity. Of the 40-45 Rs paid in Chennai (current retail price for good quality tender coconut), only one third- around 10-15 Rs goes to the farmer who grows them. Rest is transportation cost, middleman’s profit and retail seller’s profit. In and around Pollachi town tender coconut retails at around Rs 30. Some farmers who prefer to sell locally can earn more compared to what they get if they give to middlemen, but to sell on their own they will have to wait by the roadside whole day waiting for customers. This elderly man is both growing and selling coconuts- as I stopped near his shop(which was just before Valparai forest checkpost), I was trying to select the best one. He said “I personally climbed the tree and got it down this morning-I know each one of them how it is inside- you tell me what you need, I will give you the best one”.

Speaking of climbing the tree, plucking the coconut from top of a tall coconut tree needs lots of skill. Very few people are available these days with the skill to climb a tall coconut tree, identify ripe tender coconuts and drop them down. Because of this, pluckers naturally are demanding more money. Usually they ask few rupees per coconut or more, with condition that if they are to come, they should be paid for at least 100 coconuts, or a fixed fee of say Rs 75 per tree, even if there're just 5-6 coconuts (their effort to climb is still the same) - Read a related NDTV news here. In Kerala, skilled coconut tree climbers earn more than software engineers. Not being able to find tree climbers or not able to afford their rates, many small farmers in South India are forced to wait till the coconut falls down naturally. (They fall down after full growth into hard coconut shell). Fully grown coconut can be used either to extract coconut oil or can be sold in lose as coconut. If you’ve noticed, tender coconut retails at Rs 40-45 but same coconut once ripe and sold as regular coconut, sells for Rs 25-30. This could be largely because tender coconut needs more efforts (should be plucked at right time, transport (takes more space), sell, waste disposal, higher chances of some of them going bad etc.

There're many models of mechanical equipment that claim to assist climbing coconut tree. Haven't noticed any single model getting extremely popular.

 Above: Notice  how the coconut tree bends itself while growing, to take advantage of extra space (more sunlight) available... If there's no other choice, they grow straight upwards.
Above: A panorama inside a coconut plantation
Below: Coconut trees next to a river
Above: Coconut plantations as far as you can see, from top of Aliyar Dam
Below: Beware of farm dogs
New saplings in the shade and care of grown coconut trees. (These saplings will be planted elsewhere later, as there has to be enough space between trees, refer next photo)
Hybrid trees: Recent trend is to grow these dwarf hybrid coconut trees which are quicker to give results (coconuts) and are only shoulder height, so anyone can pluck the coconuts-no need for a tree climber/expert). Such plants are on sale in Ebay too!
Bike in between coconut tree plantations
Coconut is called Kalpavriksha, because every part of the tree has some use. The main output- coconut is used as tender coconut, or cooking oil or as coconut grate, the leaves are used for roof construction or boundary walls, groom sticks and so on. Almost all parts of the tree is used as firewood. Tender coconut vendors often get secondary income by selling used coconut shells as firewood.
Unfortunately, despite having great coconut farms, I don’t see India exporting tender coconuts much. We do occasionally read about some innovations but they hardly get commercial success. Thailand is beating India hands down when it comes to tender coconut. I find Thai exported tender coconuts in Macau, Australia and elsewhere. Thai people are also more innovative in packaging and marketing the coconut, making it more easier for buyers and end consumers. Most Indians spend more on harmful aerated drinks like coke n pepsi and such drinks, than they spend on nutrition rich tender coconut. There was some news about Coke introducing bottled tender coconuts, but not sure what is the latest status on that.

If you would like to try the coconut trail, take below route: Pollachi-Annamalai-top slip-Aliyar-dam. Take almost any road in the region you are most likely to pass through coconut plantations. I rode several random roads. Couldn't stop n click at many places due to rain.

10 comments:

  1. Beautiful pics. Only issue with coconut trees is it require lot of water and last year drought killed many trees and farmers.

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    1. Yes, that was bad. But then coconut trees consume less water than sugarcane n few other crops. Also once the tree is strong, it will have deep roots and can survive longer with less water. Even if not watered well, they might just survive till next rainy season

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  2. Beautiful place. Nice photos.Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Nicely captured. It's amazing how every part of the tree is useful.

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  4. The place is so beautiful !!!!
    Its really good to know about the coconut tree climbers...very interesting and was beyond my knowledge.
    Very nice post with beautiful captures.

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  5. More than your super clicks of the coconut plantations I loved how you described the climbing vs the cost of the coconut! that is so informative! :) also the fact that India needs to market its coconuts well. Well done coconut man! :) I went to Pollachi and just saw ghee roast dosas everywhere:p

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