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Home > Important Published Papers > TRADE AND MARKET FOR COIR
TRADE AND MARKET FOR COIR - PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
Shri.Christy Fernandez,IAS ,Former Chairman, Coir Board (Proceedings of the Int.Coconut Summit 2003,kochi
Abstract
India is the major exporter of value added coir goods. Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of coir fibre followed by Thailand and India. Despite the spread of coir industry in some of the major coconut producing countries, not more that 10%of the global output of husk is utilized for coir fibre extraction. There has been only marginal improvement in the production and structural patterns of coir products with the result that the new consumers particularly of the younger generation are not attracted to the too familiar products. The future of coir industry depends on development of non conventional products. The R & D efforts in India have been successful in developing many new products, which could be utilized for a variety of applications that are cost effective and environment friendly, Capacity building and quality upgradation of the widely scattered household production units are critical in improving the domestic coir industry. To avoid competition between producing countries and collapse of prices, the formation of an international forum by bringing together all the coir producing countries has been proposed in this paper. Such a body could undertake generic promotion programmes, help prevent unhealthy competition, offer directions for production including a supply side management and take up issues of common interest. The survival of coir industry depends on its ability to adapt itself quickly to the fast changing consumer preferences and widening choices. Whether for domestic of export purposes, the coir sector has to diversity, keep the quality of products and services high ad ensure cost effectiveness.
Introduction
Fifteen countries of the Asia - Pacific region produce 86% of the coconut in the world. But only a handful of them are known to be coir producers. . India is the largest producers and exporter of coir and coir products. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and now Vietnam are the other primary producers of coir with varying levels of production capabilities. Value addition in coir is at its best in India where the fibre is converted into exquisite floor coverings, Geotextiles, etc. which have earned a name in the International market . The coir industry, which was confined to Kerala, has now spread to other states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, etc. over the years largely on account of various developmental and promotional programmes. Apart from its traditional use as rope, yarn, and floor coverings , coir fibre is finding new applications as an eco-friendly substitute for wood and synthetics. A long term biodegrable geo-fabric for soil bioengineering and garden articles. The by product of coir industry, coir pith, is increasingly being used as a soil conditioner. The future of coir industry depends on the non-traditional areas and non-conventional products.
The Indian Coir Industry
The coir industry in India has had a strong export orientation since its early days when the trade was dominated by European business enterprises. With the dawn of Independence the trade came into the native hands which was a turning point in the history of coir industry in India. The structure and production relations have undergone drastic changes. The pattern of exports and product mix has also changed. From the level of the fibre and yarn exporter, India became an exporter of value added goods. This has in turn brought about a major shift in the total volume and value of exports. During the 1950s the average exports in terms of volume declined to 73,200 MT per annum. In the 1960s the volume exported declined to an average of 62,300 MT per annum. It further declined to an average of 45,700 MT per annum in the 1070s and 26,700 MT in the 1980s. But in terms of value there was an upswing all through this period. From an average annual export realization of Rs.80 million in 1950s it became Rs.120 million in 1960s, Rs.210 million in 1970s and Rs.300 million in 1980s. By the mid of 90s it was Rs.1,710 million which was gone up to Rs. 3,400 million in 2003. The export of coir over the years from India is given in Table - 1.

In the initial years the export was mostly of coir yarn to European countries, for agricultural purposes in hop and beans cultivation and as a raw - material for industrial units engaged in the manufacture of coir products. With the easy availability of synthetics, at competitive prices, and the rising cost of wages the European coir industries were constrained to either close down or to reduce their output, leaving a gap in the international market. But India could not effectively capitalize this opportunity, paving way for the synthetics to capture the scene unchallenged. The substitution of natural floor covering segment with the synthetics was irreversible, to the detriment of Indian coir industry and trade, the ill-effects of which continue even now.
Table 1 Export of Coir from India
Year Quantity(tonnes) Value(Rs.in lakhs) year Quantity(tonnes) Value(Rs.in lakhs)
1970-71 52211 1387.34 1986-87 23214 3144.46
1971-72 52312 1485.94 1987-88 25148 3219.78
1972-73 49489 1493.79 1988-89 24979 3331.53
1973-74 46759 1558.18 1989-90 27458 4017.77
1974-75 41834 1753.62 1990-91 27926 4832.85
1975-76 37284 1935.20 1991-92 30999 7411.63
1976-77 44357 2277.84 1992-93 32354 9595.32
1977-78 42443 2319.48 1993-94 37951 12936.75
1978-79 43066 2597.31 1994-95 48086 17164.02
1979-80 47225 3271.01 1995-96 48276 20684.64
1980-81 28610 2544.66 1996-97 46361 21258.26
1982-83 31311 2616.91 1998-99 49850 23892.90
1983-84 27949 2434.21 1999-2000 61031 30305.35
1984-85 25788 2640.83 2000-01 67493 31366.22
1985-86 24672 3284.66      
 
Global Coir Industry Scenario
The coir industry has developed only in a handful of coconut producing countries viz. India, Srilanka, Thailand, Indonasia, Philippnies, Malasia, Vietnam etc. The production of coir fibre is given in Table 2
Table 2 Production of coir fibre
  1996 1997   (000 tonnes) 1998(000 tonnes) 1999(000 tonnes) 2000(000 tonnes) 2001(000 tonnes)
India(Brown fibre) 149.1 169.0 210.0 236.0 246.0 251.0
Srilanka 55.8 58.3 62.4 55.2 55.1 52.2
Thailand 4.2 60 6.4 8.6 8.7 9.0
Other Countries 4.0 4.5 5.0 6.1 5.6 5.1
Total above countries 213.1 237.8 283.8 305.9 315.4 317.3
India (White fibre for yarn production 127.7 127.0 124.0 120.0 120.0 110.0
Source: FAO Statistics, December,2001
 
Out of them India and Sri Lanka together contribute almost 90% of the global coir production. According to FAO sources. out of the total annual production of coconuts, only 10% of the coconut husk is being used for fibre extraction amounting to an estimated 0.5 million MT of coir . Out of this only about 30% enters the world trade. The export in the form of fibre and yarn from producing countries is used for value addition in the importing countries. Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of fibre followed by Thailand and India . The export of coir fibre is given in Table -3.
Table 3. Export of Coir Fibre
  1996 (000 tonnes) 1997(000 tonnes) 1998(000 tonnes) 1999(000 tonnes) 2000(000 tonnes) 2001(000 tonnes)
Sri Lanka 48.53 49.85 50.86 46.82 46.70 44.25
Of which: Bristle fibre 5.52 5.70 5.01 4.08 4.33 3.73
Twisted fibre 18.64 18.09 25.76 19.51 17.86 16.57
Mattress fibre 24.38 26.07 20.08 23.22 24.51 23.95
China , Hong Kong 0.58 0.68 0.68 0.62 0.60 0.60
India 1.05 0.89 1.09 1.53 2.05 3.00
Indonesia 0.87 0.60 0.03 0.06 0.08 0.08
Philippines 0.93 1.00 1.82 1.51 0.24 0.25
Thailand 3.32 4.79 5.11 6.90 7.00 7.00
Singapore 0.30 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.02 0.02
Total , Far East 55.69 58.23 59.92 57.70 56.94 55.00
Tanzania 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.10
Other Africa 0.10 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Total , Africa 0.20 0.10 0.10 0..10 0.10 0.10
Mexico 1.08 1.76 1.94 0.69 0.69 0.69
Venezuela 0.15 0.41 0.03 0.28 1.28 1.30
Total Latin America 1.22 2.18 1.96 o.97 1.97 1.99
world total 57.11 60.51 61.98 58.77 59.01 67.09
Sourse :- FAO Statistice , December 2001, December 2001
 
Product exports are mainly from India and to some extent from Philippines and Sri Lanka, in the form of mats, mattings, rugs, carpets , needle felt rubberized coir , geotextiles etc. The export of coir mats, mattings & rugs are shown at Table 4
Table : 4 . Export of Coir Mats, Mattings & Rugs
  1996(000tonnes) 1997(000tonnes) 1998(000tonnes) 1999(000tonnes) 2000(000tonnes) 2001(000tonnes)
India 24.70 26.58 30.62 36.96 41.36  
Sri Lanka 0.69 0.34 0.78 0.78 0.90 1.27
China 0.63 0.98 1.00 0.97 0.97 0.60
Philippines 1.70 2.10 3.62 3.95 3.44 2.50
Austria 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.01 0.06  
Belgium / Lux 0.96 0.20 0.24 0.24 0.17  
Denmark 0.34 0.07 0.07 0.13 0.13  
France 0.23 0.28 1.06 2.24 0.50  
Germany 0.69 0.77 0.77 0.64 0.66  
Italy 0.68 0.77 0.77 0.64 0.66  
Netherlands 3.18 0.42 0.27 0.28 0.29  
Portugal 1.42 1.76 0.03 0.08 0.11  
Spain 0.14 0.01 0.01 0.00 0.03  
Sweden 0.42 0.48 0.29 0.28 0.31  
United Kingdom 0.17 0.11 0.12 0.14 0.11  
Total EC(15) 8.26 4.96 3.97 4.60 3.21 3.00
Total Above Countries 35.18 33.08 35.95 40.92 45.47 48.73
Source : FAO Statistice, December, 2001
 
The single largest producer of fibre continues to be India with 361 T.M.T followed by Sri Lanka with 52.2 T.M.T. and Thailand with 9.T.M.T during the year 2001. The largest exporter of fibre was Sri Lanka with 44.25 T.M.T followed by Thailand with 7 T.M.T. and India with 3 T.M.T. during the same period. The largest exporter of yarn and products was India with 58.36 T.M.T. followed by Sri Lanka with 6.87 T.M.T. the reference period. The developed countries were the major importers of yarn and products. The imports of coir mats, mattings and rugs into principal importing countries are given in Table-5.
Table : 5 Import of Coir Mats Mattings and Rugs by Principal Importing Countries
1996(000tonnes) 1997(000tonnes) 1998(000tonnes) 1999 (000tonnes) 2000(000tonnes)
DEVELOPED 29.90 30.13 32.29 35.68 36.15
EUROPE 21.70 20.80 21.40 22.70 21.20
EC (15) 20.99 20.02 20.73 22.02 20.47
Austria 0.27 0.27 0.21 0.26 0.20
Belgium/Lu 1.75 1.08 1.36 1.90 1.30
Denmark 0.59 0.58 0.30 0.21 0.24
Finland 0.02 0.04 0.04 0.07 0.06
France 3.13 2.60 3.00 3.55 3.91
Germany 4,26 4.10 4.12 4.43 3.90
Greece 0.32 0.35 0.47 1.05 0.89
Ireland 0.10 0.05 0.07 0.00 0.00
Italy 1.65 1.75 1.63 1.56 1.55
Netherlands 2.59 2.62 2.44 2.16 1.84
Portugal 0.27 0.34 0.16 0.21 0.22
Spain 1.03 1.08 0.47 0.61 0.50
Sweden 0.84 0.87 0.32 0.70 0.52
United Kingdom 4.18 4.31 6.14 5.31 5.33
Norway 0.13 0.11 0.12 0.15 0.17
Switzerland 0.60 0.63 0.54 0.57 0.53
Other Developed 8.20 9.33 10.89 12.98 14.95
Australia 2/ 1.04 1.10 1.19 1.39 1.00
Canada  2/ 0.20 0.12 0.17 0.27 0.25
Japan 0.30 0.20 0.27 0.30 0.30
United States 5.27 6.50 7.90 9.67 12.00
Other n.e.s 1.40 1.39 1.37 1.36 1.50
DEVELOPING 0.50 0.50 0.50 1.50 1.50
Total Above Countries 30.40 30.63 32.70 37.18 37.65
Source : FAO Statistics , December, 2001
 
The developed countries imported 20.65 T.M.T. of yarn while the developing countries imported only about 3 T.M.T. in the year 2001 . Again, as expected, the developed countries imported about 36.15 T.M.T. of coir mats mattings and rugs whereas the import of developing countries was only 1.5 T.M.T. The prominent markets are the North America , E.U. Countries, Australia, Japan, Korea etc. The traditional coir products like, coir mats mattings , rugs, carpets still dominate the market as is evident from the export performance of India which is the major exporter of coir products. India exports to about 72 countries. The major market destination is USA with about 37% , the European Union Countries with about 47% and the remaining countries of the world accounting for the rest of its coir exports. No reliable data is available about the consumption of coir fibre and products in the domestic markets of producing countries. The non - availability of detailed data of production and consumption makes it difficult to assess the market potential, as well as the demand and supply position of coir products. It is more true of the developing countries to which coir exports have been extremely low, although one would expect an expanding market for the product.
Trend in Customer Preference
The value addition in coir products has been focused on the demands of export market. The traditional floor coverings, mats and mattings dominate the exports. Except for some innovations in designs and colour and modernization in wet processes like bleaching , dyeing , softening , printing , etc. there has been little change in production details and structural patterns of products. Absence of product development and diversification has left the consumers with limited choice . The new consumers particularly of the younger generation are not attracted to the too familiar monotonous products. They look for an affordable life style product something different from the past, which is readily available. The unique selling properties like ecofriendliness and biodegradability, though important, are only secondary factors influencing customer choice. The future of coir industry depends on development of non-conventional products, thereby enabling fuller utilization of raw-material leading to creation of more employment opportunities especially in the rural areas. The coir industry has to focus mainly on product development and diversification , if it has to survive the mounting competition. It is heartening to note that some innovative steps are in progress to improve the quality and structural details of products using blends of coir fibre with other natural fibre like sisal, banana etc.
5:1.R&D in Coir Insufficient
The major problem the coir industry faces today is the inadequacy of R&D effort for product development and diversification . Notwithstanding the euphoria over rising demand for ecofriendly products, goods manufactured out of natural fibres especially of hard fibres are finding their future tough in the global market day by day. The very properties of natural hard fibres like inconsistency of quality, mechanical behaviors, moisture related characteristics , durability etc. are disadvantageous for large scale industrial production . The processing technologies require specific adaptations and modifications . The processing technologies require specific adaptations and modifications. The R&D gaps in this field is quite wide and efforts to bridge them are inadequate. There are several factors determining the use of natural fibres. High investment and transportation/storage cost , small markets, poor image, uncertainty about constant supply of quality raw-material , etc . diminish the prospects of natural fibre products, as a whole. Coir products are no exception. The relatively short staple length low tensile strength, stiff and brittle nature, inability to spin into finer counts etc .make the coir fibre a difficult raw-material for industrial applications. In the given circumstances, coir industry is not likely to be competitive in the world market unless new applications are found , innovative products are developed , quality is assured costs are reduced and logistics/storage problems are sorted out
5:2. R&D in coir machinery
Modernization and R&D are the key factors promoting product development, operational efficiency and cost reduction. The political economy of Kerala, the cradle of coir industry, has for some reason or another did not respond proactively to mechanization of coir industry in the initial years. This has adversely affected modernization efforts including the work culture. Of lat, the situation has changed and the sector has now started accepting modern technologies and methods including mechanization . But the progress of R&D in the field of coir machinery has been dismal. For want of demand, innovation in coir machinery did not get the due attention that it deserved. Consequently, obsolescence became the hallmark of coir machinery. With the increase in demand and economies of scale coming to play its role , the coir machinery is expected to become cost effective and affordable.
5:3. Innovation in Coir Products
5:3.1. Coir composites as wood substitute
The R&D efforts of the Coir Board of India were successful in developing a coir composite that can substitute wood , plywood and MDF boards. The composites are made out of a combination of two or more materials to achieve superior properties than that of its components. Here coir fibre and phenolic resoles are used to make the ply of any desired density. Based on the density the ply can replace plastic boards, MDF boards, or hard board made out of wood. The coir ply can be reinforced with plantation wood like rubber wood veneer, for better properties and without destroying natural forests. They are resistant to termite and borer attacks , flame retardant boiling water resistant, and free from fungal growth . The nail holding properties are better than MDF, because of the long staple and normal carpentry tools are good enough to work with. The coir ply has been standardized under BIS (IS: 14842-2000). It has obtained necessary approvals for use in the Indian Railway , Defence, CPWD, State Road Transport Undertakings , HUDCO, Rajive Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation, State Housing agencies , etc . This technology is now available for commercial exploitation. Once it becomes popular , its contribution to save the tropical forest timber would be phenomenal. It is contribution to save the tropical forest timber would be phenomenal. Its contribution to save the tropical forest timber would be phenomenal. It is estimated that 40 cubic meters of coir ply can save about 26.4.ha of forest per annum form deforestation, assuming 250 trees per ha and each tree producing 1.80 cubic meters of wood.
5:3.2. Coir as packaging material
Another R&D project of the Coir Board in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Packaging, Mumbai has developed alternative to conventional wood based packing material for various applications. Crates made out of coir composite board for heavy equipments like circuit breakers , Lids for fibre drums and collapsible reusable containers replacing plywood are come of the very exciting products developed under this project. They are superior in quality compared to commercial plywood, MDF board etc. and are very cost competitive. Tests and trials of these products have been successful. This technology is also now available for commercial exploitation .

Notwithstanding these achievements, the R&D efforts in the field of coir fibre composites are still in its infancy. Substantial work is yet to be done in product innovation and diversification especially to make it totally ecofriendly by using biodegradable polymer as binding material and to reduce cost of production. There are several other exciting opportunities for coir composites in the field of automobile interiors like door panels , packaging industry , household articles like trays , plates, etc for materials like crates, pallets corrugated containers , etc . However , it is their mechanical reliability , durability, recycleability, end of the life disposability and above all cost effectiveness that determine the preference for use of coir composites. The lack of awareness about the advantages of the product, reluctance of contractors and carpenters to use it , non-availability of a critical mass of these products in the market are some of the obstacles on their way to getting popularized wit h the potential consumers.
5:3.3 Coir bhoovstra
Another non-conventional product from the coir industry is the Coir Bhuoovastra or Coir Geotextiles commonly being used in soil bioengineering applications . One of the major ecological threats that the world faces today is soil erosion, particularly of the topsoil . The fertile , roughly 30cm thick topsoil is what sustains life and civilizations on earth. About 36% of the worlds cropland is losing topsoil at an alarming speed , threatening the food security of several countries. The developing countries are the worst affected. It takes thousands of years to form the thin layer of surface soil but needs only a few minutes to lose it through erosion caused either by water or wind or mindless human interferences. About 27% of the land surface of our country is facing threat of one or another form of soil erosion. Left unchecked , it can convert precious cropland into barren wasteland. Deforestation is one major factor contributing to soil erosion. The most ecofriendly method of erosion control is through revegetation preferably using a natural geotextile . The Coir Bhoovastra as long term biodegradable geotextile for soil bioengineering and bioremediation applications has been well acknowledged. The coir geotextile are available in woven or non-woven form as meshes, needled felt, pads, Erosion Control Blankets (ECBs), geo-rolls, antiweed blankets etc. The permeable fabric is easy to install and flows the contours of the soil surface It is particularly useful for uneven and rocky terrains. It can be used as an overlay for surface protection or as an interlay for separation, filtration and drainage. It protects the soil surface and promotes growth of vegetation during its formative stage. It can dissipate energy of flowing water and absorb solar radiation. The woven mesh hugging on to the surface acts like micro check dams retaining moisture for the seeds to germinate and the saplings to take root both in terrestrial and aquatic riparian habitat. Depending on the terrain, weather condition, type of yarn used and the quality of the fabric, product life varies from one to three years. In underwater applications it may extend up to five years or even more. Thereafter it degrades into a mulch and get incorporated in the soil , which gives it an edge over the synthetic geotextiles. Coir Bhoovastra has a variety of applications as in soil stabilization, slope stabilization watercourse protection stream bank protection, shoreline protection, storm water channeling, road pavement, road surface stabilization, fly ash dump protection, mine site reclamation, forest re-vegetation, watershed management, mud wall reinforcement ,landscaping etc. But the sad part is that while several countries abroad have recognized its worth as proven by the increasing exports, it is yet to find its legitimate place in our own country.

Coir Geotextiles are used as woven fabrics . non-woven , stitched blankets etc. for various soil bioengineering applications. According to an estimate , the world market demand for geotextiles is about 1400 million sq. meters and is growing steadily . It is in fact an engineering material and it requires a technology based promotion strategy . The characteristics of specific erosion protection selection of suitable technology and testing of materials like coir geofabric, seeds, saplings, etc are all relevant for a successful technology based promotion of coir geotextiles. The growing awareness about the need for protecting soil, in the developed and developing countries is a welcome sign With a new Farm Policy pruning of agricultural subsidies, replacing it with a technical assistance programme for water and soil conservation, and new norms under NPDES Phase ll in the USA the demand for geotextiles is bound to increase. This opportunity has to be harnessed. The coir geotextile producing countries can jointly embark on generic promotion of the product in a mutually beneficial manner . The vast market for long term biodegradable geotextile which is legitimately that of coir , should be exploited through cooperative efforts . This would enable bulk utilization of raw-materials and generation of new employment opportunities particularly in the rural areas , preventing migration of workforce to urban centers.
5:3.4 Rubberized coir and needled felt
A CFC/ITC study held in mid 90s has identified coir needled felt, geotextiles and coir pith as products with good export promotion. mattresses, packaging material, acoustic and insulation material, besides its use as geotextiles. The annual value of global sales of rubberized coir is estimated to be over US $ 500 million . Coir needled felt is being used as mattress material plant liners, insulation pads, geotextiles garden articles and even as an organic mulch. The restriction imposed on use of polyurethane in U.K. and enforcement of stringent fire retardance elsewhere in Europe, offers scope for exporting rubberized coir . But this scope is conditioned by its price competitiveness. The lose of market suffered by the European and Japanese car seat manufacturers using rubberized coir , on account of high cost of production can possibly be regained if rubberized coir producers of India and Sri Lanka can step in with quality products at competitive prices.
5:3.5. Coir Pith
The coir pith or coir dust , which is the spongy residual material , is the by product of fibre extraction which has caught the imagination of the horticulturists. It has immense potential as a soil conditioner and moisture-retaining medium for horticultural applications. It is widely being used in nurseries as a plant grow out medium especially in hydroponics. Its demand is on the increase due to the restrictions being imposed on mining of peat moss. With quality assurance, the product can find a ready market , either as such or as composted material. But the potential end users are not fully aware of its advantages , and the promotional efforts have not been adequate . There is dearth of testing facilities and recognized certification agencies in the producer countries. Other garden articles like plant liners , baskets, grow bags, shredded husks, and bit fibres are also in demand for orchid and other cut flower cultivation in the large and growing Market Garden sector.
6. Quality Assurance, a Challenge
Quality of coir products is often difficult to maintain because of the very nature and availability of the raw-materials like fibre, yarn, dyes, ,chemicals, etc. Besides, the production infrastructure like looms are obsolete and often in dilapidated condition. The workmanship of thousands of skilled and semi-skilled workers vary substantially that homogeneity and standardization are hard to achieve. Obviously quality is the casualty. Training for skill development and extension programmes for quality upgradation of the widely scattered tiny household units and their maintenance are critical in improving the current state of affairs.
7. Market Intelligence - a Major Gap
Inadequacy of ready to use information keeps the manufacturers, mostly small in size, ignorant of the market condition and consumer preferences - a situation that no industry can afford in this era of globalization. The Coir Board has recently set up a Coir Trade Centre at Kochi, which hopefully would meet this badly felt need of the industry.
8. Prospects through International Cooperation
Inadequate knowledge about the product, and its end uses, non availability of local skill, lack of accessibility to technology etc. have led to the sub-optimal utilization of abundantly available coir fibre. In the face of competition, mainly from synthetics , the natural fibres have suffered in global market. But according to an FAO report , coir has suffered somewhat less than sisal in competition from synthetics . At the same time it is also a fact that although the prices of coir and coir products have risen nominally, in real terns, it has not kept pace with inflation . Therefore there may be genuine apprehension about the outcome of expanding production base of coir leading to unhealthy competition and collapse of prices. This can possibly be prevented through appropriate supply side management and effective cooperation among producing countries . It is time to think of an institutionalized mechanism for bringing the coir producing countries of the world together An international forum of this kind can promote product development and diversification through R&D, Market Development , Quality Improvement, Transfer of Technology, Human Resources Development and exchange of market intelligence. It may undertake generic promotion programmes, help prevent unhealthy competition, offer directions for production, including a supply side management and take up issues of common interest. One such important issue is that of tariff and non-tariff barriers that the coir products are facing in international markets .

The duty applicable on import of coir and coir products ranges between 4 to 35 per cent . The major item of export from India viz the Handloom Mattings attract duty up to 8.6 C/m2 for import to USA. The import duty to Austria comes to 8.4% to Portugal, Ireland ,UK and Finland @ 8%. In the case of coir yarn, even though import duty is removed for import to EU countries, the countries in the East European Region and East Asian Region levy duty at a flat rate, ranging up to 20% . In the Latin American Region it is about 9to 12% . The total export of coir cordages and ropes from India comes to a mere Rs.14.52 million ,whereas it attracts duty up to 10.8% in import to EU countries . The total export of Coir Geotextiles from India comes to Rs.69.50 million( 01-02). A duty @ 5.8% is being levied on import of coir geotextiles to the EU countries. This stands in the way of promoting the export of Coir Geotextiles. The coir Pith is a natural substitute of natural peat and is widely used in the field of horticulture etc . The total export of pith from India during 2001-02 was Rs. 10.58 million . The pith attracts a duty @9% on import to the countries in the LAC region and rates ranging from 5 to 25% to the countries in the Asian Region . In fact there should be nil duty on these products because they are ecofriendly products mostly from the developing countries. The non-tariff barriers are mostly in the form of technical barriers. The coir geotextiles do not have prescribed internationally accepted standards. Because of this problem the end-users are hesitant to accept coir geotextiles as a standard material for soil bioengineering applications and the producers are unable to know what exactly are the specifications required by the end-users. Similar is the case with the sanitary and phytosanitary standards for coir pith . Therefore, it is essential to prescribe international quality standard for coir geotextiles and coir pith. Such issues like tariff and non-tariff barriers can be taken up more effectively by a common forum than individual countries.
8:1. Impact of WTO
To make the development process sustainable it should be economically efficient, ecologically viable and socially equitable, particularly when it involves rapid changes. The era of liberalization, privatization and globalization has brought in several changes and in its wake a variety of new challenges hitherto not experienced by the coir sector . With the opening up of market under WTO, and withdrawal of QRS, the sector is thrown into the vortex of severe competition from within and without, that too in the face of dwindling state patronage and protection. The fast changing consumer preferences and widening choices have made the markets more demanding. The survival of the coir industry depends on its ability to adapt quickly to these changes and compete successfully in the new environment. It is well known that the coir industry as a traditional cottage industry is beset with a host of problems relating to decentralized production like irregular supply and high cost of raw materials, low value addition, poor marketability of products, poor accessibility to market, poor market orientation, poor quality, inadequate market intelligence, insufficient R&D support for product development and diversification, etc . In this background a new strategy is required to be evolved to counter the challenges of emerging market economy particularly with the objective of arresting the declining trend being noticed in the sector. It is here that the state intervention in the form of policy support for capacity building and skill development becomes necessary to pave the way for sustaining the coir industry.

The WTO agreements have a direct bearing on the coir industry as well. Competition in the domestic market from goods imported at lower tariffs will be more severe. In the export market they will face competition from other developing countries both in quality and price . The non-trade barriers like environmental standards, occupational and health safety , working condition, labour standards, labour welfare measures, technical barriers like sanitary and phytosanitary measures etc. would further cause hurdles. The industry is yet to gain the requisite expertise in these matters. Appropriate capacity building and skill development measures are urgently warranted along with necessary policy interventions to facilitate them manage these issues successfully. The specialized organizations both at the centre and the states have a significant role to play in building up capabilities of the stakeholders. Besides, these organizations have to keep close watch on the movement in the market to see whether any safeguard measures are required to be taken to prevent dumping, irrational use of non tariff barriers, etc. Adopting the role of facilitator the Coir Board has to help them in getting value added market information which they on their own will not be able to generate. Although there are several safeguards available under WTO , to obtain due protection under them is a Herculean task. The small producers of coir sector would not have the expertise and wherewithal to handle such cases.
9. Domestic Market
The domestic market in India, although very vast with good potential, still remains unexploited . At present organized marketing of coir in the country is being undertaken by the Coir Board, Coir Marketing Federations of the State Governments , State Coir Corporations and State Coir Development Agencies besides the manufactures in the private sector. It is a fact that organized selling channels of coir products in the country at present are not sufficient to tap the unexploited household sector in India . The private sector efforts in this field are to be given a boost to expand the market network in the country. Programmes like organizing Coir Expo in important cities, come assistance to entrepreneurs in private and cooperative sectors to set up sales outlets, Providing market development assistance to intensify marketing efforts and to adopt IT oriented services, strengthening of publicity efforts, participation in exhibitions and trade fairs etc. by the Board are not enough to substitute private sector involvement in organized marketing of coir products. The Indian domestic market is expanding and the pent up domestic demand is getting unleashed. Whether it is for domestic or export purposes, the sector has t develop the requisite market orientation and produce marketable products at competitive prices. The biggest challenge before the coir industry in the new era of open market will be to keep the quality of their products and service high and their cost low.
Production of Coir Fibre