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Coconut Trees under Threat

Nothing is more Goan, viagra 60mg but will they last forever?

Nothing of a coconut tree ever goes to waste. Right from the trunk that gives roof rafters to the nut that makes our curries tastier, the coconut tree sways in riches. The tender fruit is solidly coated, keeping the silky meat and shimmering water fresh as ever. It is no wonder then that those with huge coconut plantations were called bhatkars (landlords). They undoubtedly possessed an asset that would give them food, water, shelter and security.

As surprising as it may sound, the coconut trees that we take so much for granted as a ubiquitous symbol of Goa, could be under threat in the near future. Due to an acute shortage of coconut pluckers and toddy tappers, many coconut farms are deteriorating and new plantations are few. Though statistics show the total number of trees holding steady, a lack of sustained care has agriculturists worried.

Coconut cultivation is subjected to risk to climatic changes, natural disasters, pests diseases etc. In a bid to promote coconut farming, the government has even introduced insurance schemes for coconut palms. The government gives a support price of Rs 8 per coconut. That means if the market price is 3 rupees, the government pays out an additional Rs 5 per coconut to the farmers. This huge amount of tax payers money shelled out as subsidy is justified only if it helps to maintain the picturesque palm fringed landscapes of Goa that have made our state a top tourist destination.

But looking around, one can see that most bhatkars (who are busy collecting subsidies) have virtually abandoned their coconut plantations and hardly anyone is putting up new saplings.
“The support price for coconut therefore has to be necessarily linked to the maintenance of coconut plantations. Otherwise it only amounts to precious tax payers’ money being misused to support the lifestyles of the rich!” opines George Fernandes, who runs an ad agency in Cansaulim.

However, any alarm about dwindling coconut palms is dismissed by the Department of Agriculture. “The area under cultivation is certainly on a steady increase,” says a clerk at the department. “Maybe the older trees are not taken care of, but there are a lot of new and exotic species being brought in …”

Records show very little change over the years in the number of coconut trees in Goa. In 2000-01 the area under coconut cultivation was 25,025 hectares, with a production of 125.12 million nuts. In 2011-2012 there were 25,730 hectares under cultivation with a production of 129.28 million nuts.

“One can see Tender coconut vending carts on the highways and in every nook and corner, which in itself is a good thing because tender coconut water has many health benefits as opposed to aerated drinks which are unhealthy. But the sad part is that most of these tender coconuts come from across the state borders. The State Government should ban this import as Goa is abundantly blessed with coconuts of much better quality,” opines George. However Mr Thadeo Rodrigues, the deputy director of the agriculture department says, “It is a good idea, but we are not self-sufficient to ban exports. In Goa, coconut is very much part of our diet and we use it for domestic purposes to the extent that there isn’t enough for sale. The demand doesn’t meet the supply.”

“We encourage people to grow the crop which is locally found in Benaulim and Calangute, which are the best,” he assures. “The Government is also aiding coconut pluckers by conducting courses recently at Ella Farm, Old Goa and Netravali. Under the coconut Board scheme, we have also invested in new climbing equipment which makes the job more secure.”

 If effective measures are not taken to safeguard the coconut tree, the beautiful landscape of our state dominated by tall swinging palm trees could drastically change.

Formerly locals would rush to plant new saplings at the first showers, but this rush has now mellowed down, if not vanished.  An officer at the Zonal Agricultural Department in Margao blames this on the lack of pluckers and toddy tappers.

The same source is quick to add, “The Government is doing its bit, but today’s generation doesn’t want to take up a job on the tree. The horticulture department does conduct training sessions for coconut plucking and toddy tapping but the percentage of people who attend is reducing every year.”

Coconut pluckers today charge anything between 750 and 1000 rupees per session in addition to the coconuts they take. “It has become very expensive today, so if one has a big property with a many trees, then it is worth it. Also, the locals who would climb the tall swaying trees have now grown old and the younger lot who are usually non-Goans do not have the skill to ascend these lanky trees,” says Mr Jacques, a retired banker from Majorda.