Traditional industries like coir, cashew and textiles,which are handled by veteran trade unionists in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF Government are poised on the cusp of mechanisation on a hitherto unseen scale.

Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac, who also holds the coir portfolio, said the industry is poised for large-scale industrialisation.

“New technologies will be encouraged and the government will provide subsidy to facilitate private players who make large-scale investments,” he had said recently.

According to Dr Isaac, the large-scale mechanisation was the need of the hour as the small-scale mechanisation would not help the sector in the long run.

The economist-turned-politico has even come up with income support schemes to compensate for the job losses in the sector that may ensue post-mechanisation.In fact, the coir industry provides employment to more than four lakh people,majority of whom are women.

Similarly, the cashew industry based at Kollam employs close to three lakh people. Minister for Cashew J Mercykutty Amma, who has a trade union background, is in favour of partial automation at the cashew factory under the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) at Kottiyam in Kollam.

The factory with a yearly processing capacity of 25,000 metric tonne was proposed as a way to tide over the losses incurred by the KSCDC. “The factory makes economic sense for the KSCDC. But it may require only a few workers.” said a senior official.

The minister also acknowledged the economic benefits but she said the plan would not be considered as it was against policies of CPM. “We are against total automation. Instead we are interested in building the traditional ‘Brand Kollam’ in the cashew sector. But mechanisation is needed in certain areas such as cutting and peeling since not many employees are interested.” said Mercykutty Amma.

Industries Minister A C Moideen, who will be unveiling the state’s Industrial Policy with the focus on improving the investment climate, said Kerala needed mechanisation that supported employees in production. He agreed to infuse more funds into the textile mills’ sector to revive it. Part of the funds would go into mill mechanisation at various stages of completion.

Meanwhile, M P Sukumaran Nair, chairman of public sector Restructuring and Internal Audit Board (RIAB), pointed out that the traditional industries were often found lacking in product innovation, branding and the ability to compete in the open market. Besides,their traditional employee base was fast ageing and the new generation was not interested in hard labour.



Finance Minister T.M.Thomas Isaac said that the Public Works Department had agreed to utilize coir geotextiles on certain stretches of roads in Kerala on a trial basis.

Studies conducted by premier educational institutions have proved the efficacy of the natural fibre in applications for reinforcement of pavements and improvement of soil, he said. The Minister was inaugurating a national seminar on ‘uses and established environment friendly applications of coir geotextiles,’ organised by the Coir Development Department here.

Durability and cost effectiveness of the use of coir geotextiles have been established in studies on rural roads conducted by Engineering College, Thiruvananthapuram, and Cochin University of Science and Technology. Various stretches in Thiruvananthapuram, Thanneermukkam and Thuravur had given positive results in terms of durability and economy.

The PWD will make use of the material on a stretch of about 3 km on the Ambalappuzha-Thiruvalla road on a trial basis. More tests were required by PWD and the additional costs required for such studies would be borne by the Coir Development Department, the Minister said.

Permission has already been given by the concerned authorities to use coir geotextiles on National Highways. The Karnataka government had already permitted the use of coir geotextiles for various projects including protection of tank bunds.

The Kerala government was planning to incorporate Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme in various schemes for soil and water conservation. According to revised norms of the scheme, the limits on spending on the cost of the material have been increased, which could facilitate the use of coir geotextiles on a large scale.

The Minister said the present practice of stone-walling Kerala’s coastline for preventing coastal erosion could be replaced by coir geotextile based construction practices. About 14.5 per cent of Kerala’s land is flood prone; 53 per cent of coastline is erosion prone; 4,626 km of of roads in the State are in flood prone areas; 695 km of roads are in landslide prone area and 254 km of roads are in coastal hazard prone area. Reinforcement of such roads with coir geotextiles would run into millions worth business, he said.

Traditional coir workers could be provided with work if the coir geotextile business improves. Efforts were being undertaken to upgrade the machinery in the sector for increasing productivity and quality of the product.

C.P.Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Coir Board, called for introducing an engineering degree course on coir technology in Kerala.

Anathalavattom Anandan, vice-chairman, apex body for coir; N.Padmakumar, Director, Coir Development; Kumararaja, Secretary, Coir Board; R.Nazar, chairman, Kerala State Coir Corporation; Sheila Evangeline, Professor, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram; and K.S.Beena, Professor, Cusat, and others spoke.





The state government will spend `1,000 crore for the development of the coir sector over the next five years, said Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac here on Thursday. The aim of the government is to widen the market for coir and coir products, the minister said at the organising committee formation meeting for Coir Kerala Exhibition, scheduled to be held in October, this year.

“As part of the government initiative to promote coir products, 100 coir stalls will be opened across the state during Onam season. The government will offer 50 per cent subsidy for the coir products sold through the Onam stalls. We are expecting to sell products worth `25 crore during the festival season. To encourage government employees to buy coir products, the government will offer coupons with a face value of `1,000. The amount can be repaid in instalments. There are also plans to start door delivery of coir products,” the minister said. To protect the traditional industry, the government is planning to reopen the famous Bombay Coir Company. The government will take over the land and property of the Aspinwall Company in Alappuzha, he said.

To revive the primary coir cooperatives, the government will provide a subsidy of `25 crore as working capital. As many as 150 automatic feeding spinning machines will be distributed to the cooperatives, said Thomas Isaac.

The government will establish 1,000 defibering units across the state to overcome the shortage of coir fibre in the state. These units will produce coir fibre from the coconut husk procured from the farmers, the minister said.

The Coir Kerala exhibition will be held at EMS stadium in Alappuzha from October 5 to 9. The exhibition will lay stress on widening the domestic market, he said.

District panchayat president G Venugopal, municipal chairman Thomas Joseph, Coir Development Director N Padmakumar, Coir Corporation chairman R Nazar, Kerala Coir Machine Manufacturing Company chairman P Prasad and Foam Mattings chairman K R Bhageerathan spoke.

About Minister

Name: Dr. T. M. Thomas Isaac
Designation: Minister for Finance and Coir
Abbreviation: M(Fin & Coir)