Comfortably Coir: The GI acclaimed Alleppey Coir from Kerala

18-02-2021

Comfortably Coir

Coir mattresses are the best. They give you an extremely comfortable, relaxed and a good night’s sleep. We all must have heard these words at some point or the other in our lives while shopping for mattresses. But what exactly is coir?

Coir is a natural fibre extracted from the outer husk of a coconut. It is the fibrous material found between the internal hard shell and the external coating of coconut. The word ‘coir’ comes from a Malayalam word ‘kayar’. Some historians believe that coir was first used to make the rope of ships by the Indian navigators, travelling to South East Asia and Gulf countries in around 11th century. The first coir factory ‘Darragh Smail & Company’ was jointly set up by James Darragh and Henry Smail in Alleppey, Kerala in 1859 which majorly produced coir mats and other floor coverings. Impressed by the versatility and strength of coir, the Britishers during their rule in India further promoted and expanded the coir sector. Soon Alleppey became a hub of Kerala’s coir industry.  

The coir fibre is extracted from the hard outer husks of coconut. These husks are then carefully bundled and dipped in water for almost a period of 8 to 10 months. This is known as the Retting process. After taking out from the water, these husks are thrashed with a wooden mallet to extract the fibre and separate it from the decomposed husk. The fibre extracted is then spun to make the yarn. The yarn is then woven to make ropes, baskets, mats, rugs and other coir products.

Owing to the availability of economical labour and abundance of coconut as the raw material, the Coir Industry is the largest Cottage Industry in Kerala. Giving direct employment to millions of people, both men and women are actively involved in the production of Coir handicrafts. The women are mainly involved in the yarn spinning sector while men are engaged in the product-weaving sector of the industry.

With the growing awareness of using the eco-friendly products made from natural fibres, beautiful and affordable handicrafts made from coir like ropes, baskets, mattresses, floor coverings, rugs, doormats, lamps, scrubbers, etc are gaining momentum among the youngsters of our country.   

The Kerala State Coir Corporation Ltd. has been successfully exporting coir products to several countries like the U.S.A., U.K., France, Russia, Poland and Brazil. The major exported products include coir pith, tufted mats, coir Geo-textiles, rugs and carpets, ropes and power-loom mats along with hand-loom mats, coir yarn and rubberized coir.

According to a government survey, the export of coir and coir products from India worth Rs. 2757.90 crore for the year 2019-20 was registered making it one of the topmost export item in India.  It is estimated that 9, 88,996 MT of coir and coir products were exported during the year 2019-20 as against 9, 64,046 MT that was exported during the year 2018-19.

The Department of Coir Development, Government of Kerala has recently organized an international event on Kerala coir and natural fibre products, ‘Coir Kerala 2021’, in the month of February 2021 on Virtual platform. With an aim of exploring and expanding the international market for coir products from Kerala and with the vision to support women empowerment by making the coir products easily available to all, the eighth edition of the annual Coir Kerala fair encourages the use of the latest machinery and technology in the coir production sector.

Furthermore, to bring a new wave of development in the coir industry of the state by enabling the villagers, especially the rural women of Allepey, the geographical indication status was granted to Alleppey coir in 2007.