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8. Conclusions

8.1 Development of technology

A substantial part of the initial targets for the project to develop technologies to produce better quality and more attractive coir products with better consumer acceptance have been achieved. Although there is still work to be carried out as a follow up to the various project team activities, much more is now known of the chemical and biochemical aspects of wet processing of coir as the result of CFC/FAO project investments.

Many of the achievements from coir bleaching research, developed within the project programme at the CCRI, have been introduced into the coir industry of southern India. A further reduction of chlorine containing bleaching agents in the recipes used is recommended. The studies of the effects of bio-bleaching on industrial chemical requirements should be continued. Appropriate effluent treatment and chemical recovery systems should be developed.

Alternative dyestuffs, replacing the banned dyes used in coir dyeing and covering a whole range of shades, have been evaluated and presented to the coir processing industry. Modern technologies of coir dyeing have been introduced at various locations.

Achievements with chemical softening of coir yarn have been reported. It was concluded that the results were not sufficient to justify further investigations along these lines, mainly because the developed methods are too expensive to be introduced to the domestic coir producing industry. To obtain more supple yarns the focus has now shifted towards making improvements with spinning technologies. The use of vegetable oil as a batching agent has resulted in promising improvements in the production of more regular yarns. Further improvements in spinning technologies (pre-treatment and mechanization) will lead to a better (finer) and more consistent quality, and a more competitive position for yarns in the market.

Printing/stencilling technology has been widely introduced in the market and has contributed substantially to the diversification of product design. Improved performance of printed mats with regard to fastness of the dye should be considered.

Investment by the coir trade in the industrial drying of coir will become attractive only when the additional costs can be covered within the prices for coir and coir products prevailing in the market. This is directly related to the supply of products with confirmed specifications of quality required of markets.

8.2 Coir market development

Although some additional mechanisation has been introduced for fibre extraction, and novel accelerated retting technologies have recently been shown to offer substantial improvements over existing practices, the general approach to existing systems of production remain unchanged. Retting continues to pollute surface waters, and working conditions for people remain unhealthy. Existing mechanical defibration procedures and equipment are extremely dangerous, even for skilled workers, and fingers and hands continue to be lost. People, however, continue to work with this equipment within antiquated industrial systems.

Costs of alternative technologies are high, and have generally not been introduced. R&D costs are equally high, and funds are difficult to raise for this traditional fibre commodity, since earnings from fibre production remain marginal. The majority of fibre producers operate on a small-scale at a village level and are unable to contribute towards the costs of R&D programmes. The public sector may need to provide for industrial continuity, and also to encourage traders and others to develop and exploit novel markets that could provide a measure of security for smallholders and small-scale processors.

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