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Coffee growers feel let down by Centre

By Our Staff Correspondent

MADIKERI, JULY 11. Coffee growers are a peeved lot as the Budget presented by the Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, does not contain concessions for the industry. They feel that the Government at the Centre, irrespective of which party is heading it, has been giving little attention to the travails of the growers.

The demand for providing a minimum support price and waiver of the principal and interest on loans, which are among the major demands, have fallen on deaf ears. It is clear that either the coffee lobby is ineffective or the Centre has chosen not to give much attention to the industry.

Many feel that when the former Union Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, who heard the pleas of growers here two years ago, the former Defence Minister, George Fernandes, and former Urban Development Minister, H.N. Ananth Kumar, could not do anything, there was little chance of securing relief from the Government of the day.

The meeting of Mr. Chidambaram and the Union Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath, recently with a delegation of growers, led by the Union Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, Oscar Fernandes, to seek sops, has brought no benefit, it is felt.

The delegation also had three other Union Ministers such as M.V. Rajashekaran, K. Rahman Khan, and K.H. Muniyappa, the Chikmagalur MP, D.C. Srikantappa, and the Rajya Sabha member, Prema Cariappa, besides representatives of growers from Kodagu, Hassan, and Chikmagalur.

The demand of organisations such as the Karnataka Growers' Federation, the Kodagu Growers' Federation etc., to waive the principal sum and the interest on loans had been turned down by Mr. Chidambaram earlier. However, according to growers Mr. Kamal Nath had given a patient hearing to them and felt that they (growers) needed to be helped.

The former vice-chairman of the Coffee Board, K.S. Devaiah, expressing disappointment over the absence of concessions for the growers in the Budget, said the Government had earned huge sums in export duty when the industry was vibrant, and now when the growers were in distress the Centre should come to their aid.

Exempting small growers from paying income tax under Rule 7 (B) would not be of much help.

On the other hand, imposing the rule would affect the quality of coffee produced as huge stocks could be sold unaccounted. Rule 7 (B) applies only to cured (processed) coffee.

The former chairman of the Codagu Planters' Association and a prominent member of the Siddapur Small Growers' Association, C. Nanda Subbaiah, said growers did not expect anything good from the Centre this time.

This was because Mr. Jaswant Singh, while presenting the vote-on-account, had said that he was happy over the scenario in the coffee sector.

Moreover, Mr. Chidambaram had been saying that waiver of the principal sum and the interest on loans was not possible.

The honorary president of the Kodagu Growers' Federation, M.W. Aiyappa, said he was disappointed over the fact that coffee did not even find a mention in the Budget.

A delegation comprising MLCs and MLAs from Kodagu, Hassan, and Chikmagalur, and the members of the federation would meet the Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, on July 17 in Bangalore, he said.

The Mangalore MP, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, is confident that a solution to the coffee crisis would be found as he had succeeded in securing a support price for areca.

The chairman of the Codagu Planters' Association, Virendra Vishwanath, also expressed disappointment over the Budget. The Union Government had ignored the pleas of growers who were facing a serious crisis, he said.

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