Rajahmundry: Godavari districts claim to have the highest acreage of coconut plantations which comes to nearly 75,000 hectares in the state. Despite this, local people prefer to get their thirst quenched, especially during summer, with coconut water that has been imported and is of hybrid variety. These tender coconuts are imported from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
The conventionally raised variety of tender coconut grown locally, on an average, offer about 200 ml of water. Imported variety of coconut that are hybrid, on the other hand, gives up to 400 ml water. People prefer to buy the hybrid variety of tender coconut being sold at Rs 30-40 each against the local variety that would cost about Rs 15. Their preference for imported variety apparently is because of the fact that they get more water.
Horticulture authorities say that the local coconut farmers are reluctant to switch over to cultivation of hybrid varieties for several reasons. Conventional coconut growers say that their trees have roots that go deep. With a strong stem, the trees grow tall and can resist cyclonic storms that tend to hit the areas. The trees also are seen to be pest-resistant. Hybrid variety cannot sustain nature's fury as their roots are not so deep and stem is weak and are uprooted far more easily.
Farmers point out that conventional variety of coconut plants start giving yield from seventh year and continue for nearly 60 years. Hybrid variety plants that start producing coconuts from the fourth year, however, will yield only for about 30 years.
Conventional coconut farmers say that once the tree starts giving yield, they can harvest the crop every two months. This is similar to getting salary every two month. This regular source of income reportedly is a big attraction for many of the farmers.
The conventional variety of coconuts is generally exported to northern states where they are used at temples to offer to the deities. A part of the produce is used to get copra used as spices or making chutney. The coconuts are also used for extraction of coconut oil, fibre and other by-products.
The state government provides subsidy for plant material and pesticides while Coconut Development Board provides subsidy on fertilisers.
Support for growing hybrid variety of coconut is relatively less to discourage farmers from raising them.
Horticulture Research Station located at Ambajipeta of Konaseema area in East Godavari and Dr YSR Horticulture University located at Venkataramannagudem of West Godavari develop hybrid variety of coconut saplings that have higher water content and other features through cross-pollination between conventional coconut 'East Coast Tall' (female) and the one having more water content 'Ganga Bonda' (male) to develop hybrid variety of coconut plant called 'Godavari Ganga.'
Amalapuram horticulture assistant director Ch. Srinivasulu said, "We are trying to motivate some progressive farmers to raise hybrid v...