Coconut fibre, or coir, is a low-value by-product of coconut production. In most countries coir is discarded as waste, sometimes it is used as a fuel, in few instances it is processed into products.
Coconut production is largely the domain of small, poor farmers, mainly for the sale of copra. Coconut farmers, however, could earn an additional income if there were a demand for coconut fibre. Productive use of the fibrous material contained in the husk practically only takes place in India and Sri Lanka. As coir is a coarse, short fibre, traditional applications for coir are generally low-cost mats and nets, brooms and brushes, and fillings for mattresses and upholstery. These applications are facing strong competition from synthetic materials, thus eroding the demand for coir. Renewable, natural materials like coir do have, however, potential for uptake in profitable applications, provided they meet the required standards set by the markets. This relates in particular to technical standards without excluding the importance of issues like reliability of supply, price competitiveness, etc.
The present Technical Paper is the reflection of the work undertaken by a project financed by the Common Fund for Commodities, which specifically focused on technology development in relation to the usability of coir in traditional and improved applications. The project, entitled Improvement in Drying, Softening, Bleaching, Dyeing Coir Fibre/Yarn and in Printing Coir Floor Coverings, was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in two countries, namely India and Sri Lanka. An international workshop was organized by the Coir Board of India and its Central Coir Research Institute (CCRI) in December 1997 in the framework of the project, the proceedings of which were published separately by the CCRI.
This Technical Paper has been commissioned by the Common Fund in line with its policy to make results and experiences obtained in its projects available to a wider audience. It is intended to provide both an account of the projects technical achievements and findings, as well as to place the experiences obtained in the context of the current insights and state-of-the-art in coir processing technologies.
It is the wish of the Common Fund that this publication in the series of CFC Technical Papers will contribute to a further development of the coir sector, and may result in a continuing uptake of promising techniques, leading to higher value addition for coir and coir products.
Rolf W. Boehnke
Common Fund for Commodities