<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a major boost to village industries and manufacturing of products from coconut fiber and coir, the state government is commissioning coir clusters across the Konkan coast. This will enable the manufacture of handicrafts, ropes, mats and mattresses, soil erosion control blankets and fertilizer from coconut coir and husk.The first such center has been commissioned at Kudal in Sindhudurg district to help harness the potential of coconut husk, which was otherwise thrown away by cultivators after the kernel was extracted. Officials noted that while Maharashtra had significant coconut plantations, the wastage of husk and coir was huge due to the absence of a coir-based industry to use this raw material. This is unlike states like Kerala. “We are working on a waste-to-wealth theme. The value addition due to coconut husk will help locals get employment, raise earnings and encourage village industries,” industries minister Subhash Desai told DNA. He said that the coir cluster at Kudal, which was the first in Maharashtra, also had facilities to train people in the extraction of coir from the husk. “The coconut husk, which is called sodan in the Konkan, was either used as biomass for fuel or was thrown away,” explained Desai, adding that now, this fiber could be sold to industries, including those manufacturing mattresses, by stakeholders. Maharashtra has around 32,161 hectares under coconut cultivation, most of which is in the Konkan. Sindhudurg district (16,609 hectares) accounts for the highest plantation of coconut and Raigad (5,974 hectares), Ratnagiri (5,945 hectares) and Thane and Palghar ( 3,633 hectares) also have fruit-bearing trees.“Going forward, private entrepreneurs can also set up units to manufacture finished products there,” said Desai, adding this value-addition would ensure better prices for cultivators.“Under the state government’s Chanda to Banda scheme, we plan to set up 12 such centres in the Konkan. We have entered into a MoU with the Kerala State Coir Machine Manufacturing Company for a supply of machines and transfer of technology,” said Shivajirao Daund, managing director of the Maharashtra Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (MSSIDC). The MSSIDC has set up the demonstration-cum-production centre at Kudal.A new center is expected to be commissioned at Sangameshwar in Ratnagiri followed by those at Pawas and Ganpatipule. The land is being selected for centers in other districts. Each unit will cost around Rs 45 lakh. Daund added that they planned to establish a coir mattress manufacturing centre at Kudal to supply these mattresses to government hospitals and establishments.At the Kudal centre, which commenced production in 2016, cultivators are charged a nominal rate for processing of husk or each husk is purchased at 75 paise and given to women to make ropes. “Around 100 women have been given electric charkhas in Sindhudurg for making ropes out of coconut fiber and get around Rs 15 per kg rope manufactured. Each of these women can make around 15 kg of rope daily,” he said, adding that it took around 2kg of coir to make one-floor mat, which could be sold for around Rs 250.Daund added around 10,000 coconut husks could be crushed to get 1 ton of coconut fiber and two tons of coconut powder (pith) which can be used for floriculture and horticulture. This powder also had great demand abroad.The coconut production in Maharashtra is estimated at 10,500 per hectare.Coconut coir has high tensile strength and is resistant to fungi, moisture, and rot. Extraction of coir fiber, yarn and manufacture of coir-based products like mats, handicrafts, rugs, mattresses, geo-textiles, umbrellas, bags and composite boards will help nurture small-scale industry and create wealth for coconut cultivators.