Salalah risks losing tag of coconut city of Gulf

SALALAH, Feb 26 – Does the large scale development of Salalah taking away its identity of the ‘coconut city’ of the Gulf? This is a question a section of people are asking and discussing after many coconut plantations paved the way for malls, hotels and other constructions.
Coconut palms were also victims of much needed road expansions, which certainly eased traffic especially during Khareef season. The exact figure of decline in output is not available, but the shortage of raw coconuts in the roadside stalls during the peak season tells the story loud and clear.
Coconut vendor Asif admits that many tourists from all over the Gulf countries come to Salalah to enjoy the monsoon season with a clear-cut goal of having some delicious and fresh coconuts. But he has been witnessing its short supply for the last three-four years.
“Whatever might be the reason but I miss many customers who come to our shops looking for coconuts and end up buying many other fruits and vegetables… no one comes if there is no coconut at your counter.”
Asif’s friend Aslam tries to find reason behind the shortage of coconuts in large scale development. “I have been selling coconuts for the last 20 years in Salalah. I used to bring coconuts from those big farms. Some farms have totally gone and today there are hardly a few coconut trees there. While clearing the lands for development some trees were relocated but not all causing the short supply.”
There are many buyers of Aslam’s theory. Local resident Mohammed admits that there were many coconut farms in Salalah some years ago and many of them have been converted into some kind of construction or the other.
He puts stress on the fact that coconut trees are identity of Salalah and policymakers should keep in mind that Salalah is the only place in the GCC where coconuts are grown for commercial production. “Its unique climatic condition suits and this richness should be maintained at any cost.”
Some vendors admit that they get a supply of 150 to 200 coconuts during the season, where as demand for them is not less than 1,000. “There has been 800 to 900 per cent rise in demand during the season,” says Mohammed, who is into coconut business for many years.
He is pinning hope on the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which is looking for mass plantation of coconut trees in Salalah. This, according to him will fill the gap of demand and supply and more than that save Salalah’s identity of ‘coconut city of the Gulf’.