India’s coir businesses are preparing to take advantage of the price-competitiveness of coir geotextiles by switching to the use of brown fibre and stepping up automation. The industry will soon sport a diversified basket of products, including needle punched fabric, mulching sheet, coir composite, binder-less board and coir acoustic material.

The target is to gradually move away from traditional products like coir mats, said stakeholders at the International Expo Coir Kerala.

By utilising brown fibre and automating good many of the processes, the coir geotextiles can be made market-ready at half of the present production cost, they said.

Coir geotextiles is a woven net material made of coconut husk. It is increasingly used in bulk to check soil erosion, road-building and renovation of water bodies and landfills. Although geotextiles account for lion’s share of the country’s ₹2,728-crore coir exports, the share of coir geotextiles in the ₹1,200 crore domestic geotextile market is less than 40 per cent, according to Indian media reports.

Geotextiles made of synthetic fibres are currently ruling the market, mainly because of their relatively low cost. Lowering the price, along with diversification of the product portfolio would pay high dividends for coir firms, said KR Anil, director of the National Coir Research and Management Institute (NCRMI).

Kerala’s coir geotextiles sales target for next fiscal is Rs 1,000 crore. This is 90 per cent of the domestic geotextiles market. With growing utilisation in road construction, transport minister Nitin Gadkari has demanded production of 40,000 tonnes of coir geotextiles annually. To meet this ambitious production target, a collective rallying of coconut-producing southern states is in the pipeline.

Coir factories are soon going into a co-branding partnership with furniture players. Besides, geotextiles, coir products readying for export market, are needle punched fabric, mulching sheet, coir composite, binderless board and coir acoustic material.