The high price of activated carbon and its increased sourcing, especially by the US, has helped India’s coconut product exports to touch ₹2,295 crore during the 2020-21 fiscal, against ₹1,762 crore in the previous fiscal.
Activated carbon made up 65 per cent of the export basket, and garnered a revenue of ₹1,514 crore, with 1,13,536 tonnes being shipped. In comparison, during 2019-20, exports were at 1,03,071 tonnes valued at ₹1,184 crore.
The US alone accounts for ₹295 crore of exports, followed by Germany, China, Russia and Korea.
India has now emerged a major player in the activated carbon market, overtaking countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. A decade ago, the export of activated carbon stood at 20,000 tonne. However, the gradual improvement in infrastructure and increased production, especially in the South, has helped India emerge a top destination, officials at the Coconut Development Board said.
Activated carbon is mainly used for the purification of gold, water and air and the quality of the Indian produce, priced at $2 per kg, received a good response from overseas clients. While charcoal is made by burning coconut shells, activated carbon is produced by the steam activation process in which the surface area of charcoal is enhanced manifold by increasing its adsorption capacity. Currently, about 30 companies in India produce activated carbon.
Fresh, frozen and grated coconut exports is another emerging segment in the coconut product export kitty. It fetched a revenue of ₹170 crore, with 28,766 tonne being exported. The product has good demand in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, with a large Keralite population. Around 12 companies in Kerala are engaged in this business, the officials said.
The introduction of a minimum import price of ₹150 per kg for desiccated coconut has helped control unnecessary imports from Sri Lanka. The export revenue from this product was ₹28 crore on a shipment of 1,856 tonnes, the officials said.
However, industry sources said the prominence of Indian virgin coconut oil is fast eroding, both in the domestic and overseas market, because of its pricing. Indian products with a price tag of ₹500+ are not in a position to compete with the Sri Lankan product, which is available at ₹300. There is a need to reduce the price to compete at least in the domestic market, even as the product finds some takers in the metros.
Ubais Ali, proprietor of the Kochi-based Star Exporters, said that the sector is not getting any export incentive for value-added products even though exports of raw de-husked coconut is bound to get incentives to the tune of 5-7 per cent. Coconut value-added product exports from India is very difficult to sustain just because of the volatility in the price of the raw coconuts.
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