Coir industry makes steady, beneficial move towards mechanisation

Alappuzha, Feb 5: The National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI) has debuted a low-cost and fully-automatic powerloom at the ongoing Coir Kerala 2016, displaying the research-and-development agency’s latest stride in mechanization amid a bid to woo the younger generation to the traditional sector.

The machine—at Rs 15 lakh, which thus costs half what the current powerloom is priced at—is ready for release in three months, according to top officials.

“We need to have discussions with union leaders on the need to mechanise,” said Minister for Revenue and Coir Shri Adoor Prakash, who is the chairman of the 1994-established organization. “Coir is a traditional industry, and only through mechanisation will we be able attract the younger generation to the sector.”

Last year, at the fifth edition of Coir Kerala, the NCRMI introduced the patented pneumatic geotextile loom, which cost Rs 4 lakh, and could be worked by one person. As the institute improves on its machines every year, the ease of operation is increased and production capabilities are improved, making it a more profitable and inclusive venture.

“Automation was introduced into the sector less than three decades ago,” says Coir Secretary Smt Rani George. “There was resistance to it for fear that it would replace the workforce, but with growth in value added production and more business, we feel that the younger generation will be increasingly attracted to the sector.”

On the traditional handloom, the worker would need to apply 8.5 pounds of force to each stroke. The powerloom is a one-button, one-staff operation, where output is increased by 15 times more.

The coir sector has 3.5 lakh workers of which 80 per cent are women. “Mechanisation helps reduce the physical strain; the automatic spinning machine can produce 35 kg of yarn, as opposed to the 16 kg which was produced on motorised rats,” said Shri D Sugathan, chairman of the Kerala State Coir Machinery Manufacturing Company (KSCMMC). And one woman can operate three automatic machines at one time.

While earlier, machinery was imported, the NCRMI now sells its technology largely through the KSCMMC.

Ironically, fibre procurement is one of the big challenges in Kerala, with nearly 80 per cent of the material coming from Tamil Nadu. The Alappuzha-based KSCMMC’s defibering machine, which is given at 50 to 100 per cent subsidies, can process up to 9,000 husks in a day. The state’s small landholding’s, however, make procurement a cumbersome issue, and the government is now proposing transportation subsidies.

“At the pace at which we are moving, full-scale mechanisation should happen over the next decade,” says the coir secretary. “This is the future of the sector, from which we hope to gain an export revenue of Rs 2,500 crore in the coming year.”

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