Asserting that the plantation sector would get special attention of the UPA-II Government, the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma, on Saturday said the Government would ‘very soon’ come out with a comprehensive debt relief package for the small and medium coffee plantation growers.
“The package is at present worked out and will be finalised soon. It will then be taken to the Union Cabinet for approval and I am hopeful that all this will be done in a short period of time. The Government is serious about addressing the concerns of the distressed plantation sector and has constituted an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) to look into the inadequacies in this sector and make efforts to provide competitiveness to the plantation sector,” he added. “We are looking closely what we can do for the coffee plantations,” he said. A debt relief package was also given to the coffee plantation growers way back in 2005, also by the previous UPA Government. Coffee prices have fallen sharply in the international market ahead of the harvest season from October in a number of countries, including India.
“Although average monthly prices in August were higher than in July, prices of all four varieties of coffee seem to be on a downward trend as the new crop year approaches in a number of countries,” the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) has stated in its latest report. Bean prices fell by 10.44 per cent in August in the international market. Besides the weather uncertainties, coffee growers are also facing a debt burden.
Coffee exports dipped by 19 per cent during January-August this year to about 1.33 lakh tonnes due to high prices of the Indian bean.
Officials said that the debt relief package could comprise an outright bank loan waiver of about Rs. 400 crore and extension of crop insurance cover of Rs. 728 crore. Indebtedness of coffee farmers was high and the focus of the relief package would be to deal with this problem on priority.