Has coconut cultivation over taken agriculture in Moodubelle?

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Report and Pictures by Eugene Moodubelle

Moodubelle, 17 February 2010: As I was at the shop of Pundalika Nayak for some purchases, I could see the hectic activity of some of his men working in the shop offloading sacks filled with copra from tempos and rickshaws, weighing  and checking the copra for its quality, segregating and filling in other gunny bags.   The hectic copra trading activity has been one of the high points in the shop of Pundalika Nayak, proprietor of Shanteri Kamakshi General Stores, Moodubelle every year especially during the months of December and January.

Being curious about the increasing trade in copra, I asked for certain details which Pundalika was ready to provide in spite of his busy trading season in copra and attending the customers in his usual smile and agility.

According to Pundalika, he acquires on an average 30 quintals or 3,000 kilograms of copra per day during the month of December. Depending on the quality of the copra, his workers classify them in to three categories. Usually the price of the good quality copra varies between Rs.30 to 36 during this busy season. For second quality, he pays between Rs.15 to 20 and the third quality up to Rs. 10.

As Pundalika owns an oil mill, he uses considerable amount of copra to extract oil which he sells at the rate of Rs.60 per kilogram and the residue is used as the oil cake which people purchase for their cattle. On an average, Pundalika’s oil mill extracts around 100 kilogram oil per day. Some coconut cultivators bring their copra to Pundalika’s oil mill for extracting oil for which he charges an amount of Rs. 5 per kilogram of copra A large quantity of copra is sent to Karkala, Saligrama and, Siriyara near Brahmavara where the copra is given a polished look and  sent to Maharashtra, Gujarat and Hyderabad.

It seems that since these few years the trade in copra has been increasing in Moodubelle due to a number of factors. Pundalika says that since recent years people of Moodubelle have become quite health conscious and avoid using too much of coconut in food items, vegetables, curry, etc.  Besides this factor, many people have expanded coconut plantation at the expense of rice cultivation. People find cultivation of paddy more expensive and labour intensive than coconut plantation and return from coconuts is considered to be better than that of rice.

People with commercial base in coconuts either harvest them by hiring expert climbers or wait until the coconuts dry on the tree itself and fall off naturally. Harvesting is normally done at 30 days intervals during summer and 45 days intervals during rainy season. In certain cases harvesting is done three times a year. Harvesting is usually done by experienced climbers who climb the palms with the help of a rope-ring round the feet or ankles. It is said that there are very few coconut tree climbers left in the village as the modern youngsters have not developed the art of climbing the coconut palms.    After the harvest, the nuts are to be stored in heaps under shade for few days. Storing of nuts in heaps facilitates husking easier, shelling cleaner and obtaining higher output of superior quality copra.

The coconuts are stored till the copra-making season arrives, which is roughly after the monsoon and agricultural activities are completely over. Usually by the end of November or the beginning of December people start the copra-making activity which may continue intermittently till April-May.

The de-husking of the coconut is done by using a vertical sharp bi-edged conical iron rod with a leaver. The charges for de-husking varies from Rs.30 to 35 or even 40  per hundred coconuts depending on the season. The nut that is extracted by de-husking has to be made into two halves by cutting across, water drained off and spread the cups on the floor for sun-drying. After two to four days of sun-drying, the shells are separated from the copra. Sometimes, the shells of the already empty and dry coconuts (goddu tharai) get separated while they were being broken into halves.

Depending on the intensity of the heat, the copra dries to the optimum point by 6 or 7 days of continuous exposure to the sun. Cloudy weather or unscheduled rains sometimes not only delay the drying process, but also may result in damaging the copra which might be classified under second or third category in quality causing considerable loss to the cultivators.

After the sun-drying process is over after 7 to 9 days, the dried copra is filled in sacks and transported either by rickshaws or tempos to the general stores of Pundalika who practically enjoys the monopoly of the copra trade in Moodubelle.

The husk and shells of the coconut are effectively used as fuel in outdoor choolas for warming water for bath or even for cooking purposes.
It has been observed that people in Moodubelle as well as elsewhere in the coastal region increasingly prefer to plant more coconut trees and expand their commercial base as agricultural operations are becoming more and more expensive with the passing years. With the local labour force becoming scarce and labourers from the Deccan (Gaudas) demanding higher wages and playing truant, it seems that the coconut cultivation has overtaken agriculture in Moodubelle.



Comments on this Article
Owel, Borongan City Wed, June-16-2010, 5:44
what is the name of coconut husk remover?
Alex, Edmer/Dubai Sat, February-20-2010, 12:17
Dear pundlika,tusi great ho! keep goin..... Dear Eugene thanks for the good work
Alan Sunil Mathias, Gundry / Dubai Fri, February-19-2010, 12:15
Nice Article Eugene. his friendly nature, smiling face attracts every one. off course he is doing good today, its just because of his hard work. Pundlika keep it up and keep smiling always.
Philip, Mesaieed, Qatar Fri, February-19-2010, 2:44
I found this article informative and belonging to the class of positive reporting. The proliferation of coconut plantations may be one of the reasons for lower prices of copra (inflation adjusted), but the propaganda against its consumption may be another. In my view coconut oil is healthier than most mufa-pufa oils we use these days in cities.
Victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Thu, February-18-2010, 11:59
Dear Vikas I saw Mr Pundalik driving his Rickshaw Moodubelle to Deveragudde This is the part of his carrier business, I agree what you said, if you know something more about his hardwork please do write, I appreciate it, please don t wait for somebody to write and you to comment on that.
Manoj Menezes, Shirva/Abu Dhabi Thu, February-18-2010, 4:34
Good Article. By the way who is the other person ? (bald head in green shirt). Is he Mr. Shettigar who used to work in Shirva Manchakal.
Vikas Castelino, Moodubelle,Deveragudde Thu, February-18-2010, 5:05
Hi,Mr.Victor D almeida,Baharain, I read your comment about Pundalik Nayak, he started his carrier not as a rikshaw driver before that he woekrd as shop helper in belle angady(now we cal that place Padubelle), then he used start ice kandy buissness by bicycle, after sometime he became a rikshaw driver. Why am informing you this because Pundalik was since his childwood very hard worker person in his family. wishing him best of luck his buissness.
Victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Wed, February-17-2010, 11:49
Our childhood days we used to take our copra all the way to udupi to extract the oil, Now it is easy for the villagers to make use Mr Pundalik coconut mill facility. We all know him from his childhood very hard working smart guy, He started his carrier as a Rickshaw driver now he become a big merchant at Moodubelle nobody can beat him in his grocery business, it is like a supermarket at Moodubelle, just make one telephone call everything will be on your door except non veg items.We all wish him best of luck.
Prinson noronha, belle,dubai Wed, February-17-2010, 9:35
Hallo, Nice and imfomative article,good to see pundlika and some nice photos.Good job,keep it up...
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Wed, February-17-2010, 4:57
I always liked Pundalika for his cheerful nature and smiling face. Wishing him all the best in his day to day business activity!
Anil Martis, Moodubelle Wed, February-17-2010, 4:24
Pundalik maam, kassi asa thumgele karobar. polevn laaik zalle. Thumgele voyvat chaang javndhi mun amgeli avus zavnasa.
Suraj-Belle, Moodubelle/Dubai Wed, February-17-2010, 9:21
Dear Eugene Sir....Good one.
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