The covid pandemic is a major obstacle to Kerala's plan for coconut boost

 P. Prasad, Kerala's new Agriculture minister, is putting on a brave front as his efforts to lift the state's coconut – and its farmers – to new heights have not been at the speed he expected. This is due to the Covid epidemic.

Prasad, a 52-year-old, first-time legislator, said that if it hadn't been for the second lockdown, things would have picked up in the initiative.

Due to transportation restrictions and lockdown, our main programme to provide for new coconut seedlings didn't go as planned. We had originally planned to distribute 15 lakh seedlings, and now with the restrictions eased, we expect that we will be in a position to achieve our target," Prasad, also known as "green legislator" for his passion for the environment, said.

Coconut is a vital horticultural crop, grown in 17 states and three Union Territories of India. India is the largest coconut producer, accounting for 31% of the total.

The country's total coconut cultivation area is 20.96 million hectares, with Kerala accounting for 7.60 lakh.

Kerala is the top producer (5,230,000,000 nuts out of 23,798 millions), but it is fifth in productivity.

Prasad has one main goal: to increase coconut productivity. He is also in a hurry for new seedling distribution, as the Pinarayi Vijayan government set a target of 2 crore seedlings by 2029.

Minister also stated that he is currently working on schemes to accelerate the value-added programme for coconuts, as this is what will bring joy to the coconut farmers.

"We have two new coconut parks in Kozhikode. These are the places where units that add value to coconuts will be located. Look at China, and all the products made from coconuts. He said that people all around the globe are available and that if we produce coconut-based products, there is no market problem."

Prasad stated that today's stage allows for immense value addition. Today, every part of the coconut trees is used for something. The path forward that has already yielded rewards includes value addition to each product. This includes coconut oil, coconut oil, coconut shells for activated carbon, as well as coconut milk, coconut butter, and cool refreshing "neera" food items.

Coconut flour is rich in dietary fibre and protein. It is also low in digestible carbs, which makes it great for heart disease prevention, diabetes prevention, and preventing cancer. Coconut flour is also gluten-free.

Prasad stated that they are continuing to work on the program of setting up "Kera Gramam" (coconut villages). They have established 84 villages so far this year. Their goal is to establish a coconut village for every one of the nearly 1000 local bodies.

"We are confident in putting the pieces in place to take coconut higher than ever before... for many, the day starts with a few drops coconut oil applied to the scalp just before they go for a bath. He said that coconut is a Keralite's connection to coconut, and this is why he is able to take forward the plans for coconut."