Coconut farmers in lush Kerala state find it increasingly difficult to hire people, as younger workers shun manual labor for more prestigious jobs.
... They're just plain lazy," said K.P. Peter, a small-time coconut farmer. "They get all sorts of subsidies from the government, don't show up on time, leave us stranded. There should be a law against such irresponsibility."
As part of their search for pickers, industry groups have looked to the likes of Thailand and Indonesia ...
... countries that train monkeys to pluck the coconuts. (Understandably, some local workers find the prospect of being replaced by a monkey mildly insulting.)
But the monkeys aren't quite working out.
"The problem is, the monkeys climb but can't tell what's ripe and just harvest everything," said Sree Kumar, a professor at the College of Agriculture in Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram.
In a bid to broaden the labor pool, the Coconut Board's Friends of the Coconut Tree program is trying to recruit women — picking has traditionally been man's work — older workers and anyone else who dreams of reaching for the fronds.
The board's six-day Friends course trains people to use climbing devices, allowing even the most uncoordinated workers to get themselves up a trunk, provided they stifle any fear of heights, which can reach 100 feet. (We're talking a 10-story building.) The climbing devices, in sitting and standing models, cost about $50 and work by ratcheting the rider up the trunk with a foot-powered device. Around for at least 30 years, they were upgraded in 2010 with rust-resistant materials and a revolutionary new feature: a safety belt.
A safety belt? What's the world coming to when an employer is expected to provide a safety belt for an employee working only 100 feet off the ground?
Later on, the article explains that workers used to be "paid in coconuts," but now they get paid in money. I bet you could get a reporter in America to write, with a straight-face, that paying workers in coconuts "is good for the economy."
By the way, I think there's a fair chance that L.A. Times reporter Mark Magnier actually gets the joke and is consciously parodying all the economic logic-defying articles the prestige press has run over the years about how there is a Shortage of this type of worker or that type of worker.
Maybe one of these days they'll run an article about how there is a shortage of Apple stock. I would be happy to pay what I feel is a reasonable price for a share of Apple stock -- say, $10 per share -- but there is a Shortage of Apple stock available at the price I want to pay, so Something Ought to Be Done About It. (Maybe, like, I should be able to print up my own undocumented shares of Apple common stock without the government getting all huffy about the law and stuff.) And they can quote me on that.