Copra prices are witnessing a divergent trend in the key producing states of southern India.
Prices of milling copra have started softening ahead of the start of the new coconut crop season in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, while the edible ball copra is ruling firm in neighbouring Karnataka.
As per the figures available with Cochin Oil Merchants Association, prices of milling copra are currently ruling at ₹12,550 per quintal in Kerala compared with ₹13,100 the previous week. In Tamil Nadu, the rates were quoted at ₹11,500 against ₹12,400 last week. The southward movement of copra prices has reflected even in coconut oil in Kerala which dropped by ₹500 per quintal to ₹18,450.
The commencement of the crop season in Kerala has ensured good availability of raw coconuts in the market, leading to a price drop to ₹3,600 per quintal from ₹4,600 a fortnight ago.
Ubais Ali, Executive Director of Mezhukkatil Mills, told BusinessLine that demand in the coconut oil market is sluggish because of higher prices, forcing consumers to shift to other cheaper alternatives for the time being.
However, prices of other edible oil in the global market have started spiralling mainly because of the logistical challenges due to Covid pandemic. The start of clinical trials on Virgin Coconut oil in the Philippines for Covid treatments has also put pressure on crude coconut oil prices, which have surged to $1,800/tonne from $1,400. Crude coconut oil is mainly produced by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, where the domestic consumption of coconut oil is lower, Ali said.
In Karnataka’s Tiptur market, the modal price (rates at which most trades take place) of ball copra, ruled at about ₹15,200 a quintal in late February and are now quoting at ₹15,900 levels, giving some respite to growers. Trade sources attribute the current price trend to supply issues of ball copra, which is mainly produced in districts of Tumkur, Hassan and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka.
“Arrivals have thinned down considerably over the past year as production has taken a hit due to mite disease in coconut plantations,” said Srikant Kelahatti of Raitha Bandhu, commission agent in Tiptur APMC.
Unlike the milling copra, which is produced by cutting open the coconut and drying the kernel either in direct sunlight or using the driers in a couple of days, the production process of ball copra is pretty lengthy and costlier one. It takes about a minimum of 9-11 months to produce ball copra. Farmers dry the mature coconuts for at least 11 months during which process the water in the nut gets dried naturally, lending unique sweet taste to copra. The dried nut is de-husked and de-shelled to obtain copra, which is in ball shape. Hence, it is called ball copra.
Jayesh Mehta, a trader in Tiptur, said despite the slack seasonal summer demand, the firm trend in ball copra prices is likely to continue as there is no sufficient supply.
It is estimated that about 39 per cent of the country’s total coconut production of around 15 million tonnes is converted into copra, of which 23 per cent is edible copra and remaining 77 per cent is milling variety to produce oil for edible, cosmetics and oleochemicals. While milling copra production is concentrated in Kerala and Tamil Nadu with 52 per cent and 39 per cent share, the edible copra is largely produced in Karnataka accounting for 61.5 per cent of the output.