Coconut Development Board (CDB) will extend the scheme for replanting and rejuvenation of coconut palms to all the districts in the State. The scheme, intended for removal of old and unproductive palms and planting new ones, was introduced on a pilot basis in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Thrissur districts in 2009-10.
The union government had allotted Rs. 75 crore for the programme in the 2013-14 budget. The scheme will be extended to 11 districts in a phased manner, according to CDB officials. Under the pilot project, farmers were given subsidy of Rs.500 per palm for the removal of 20 palms and Rs.250 per palm for the palms removed subsequently, subject to a maximum of Rs.13,000 per hectare. The cutting and removal of the palms were followed by replanting for which a subsidy of Rs.20 per seedling was provided. A subsidy of Rs.15,000 per hectare was provided in two installments for rejuvenation of the remaining palms.
Root wilt disease
“While the project is intended to increase productivity, utmost care should be taken to plant disease-free and high yielding varieties”, said Pushpadas, an agricultural scientist who had worked in coconut research stations. The root wilt disease (lethal yellowing) continues to be a cause of concern for farmers and unless a disease-free strain is developed, the intended progress might not be achieved, he said.
George V.Thomas, Director of Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, which is engaged in research on containing root wilt disease, said remedy for root wilt disease (phytoplasma) was yet to be found out. “A complete remedy is not available anywhere in the world”, he said. Nevertheless, agronomic practices can limit the impact of the disease. “Two strong varieties that have shown 75-80 per cent resistance to the disease have been developed”, he said. Removal of affected palms is the ideal strategy. The programme has already started in phases and it will be extended to the entire country during the 12 Plan period, he said.
Coconut Development Board envisages involvement of Coconut Producers Societies and Coconut Producers Federations in the rejuvenation scheme. Dwarf varieties could be the ideal choice for those areas where the farmers face difficulty in getting the services of skilled labour for harvesting operations. The Board Chairman, T.K.Jose, had taken a novel initiative to form ‘Friends of Coconut Trees’, a group of trained personnel for harvesting and maintenance operations. Though it is functioning successfully at different locations, there are areas where adequate number of personnel for harvesting is not available.
The Board has recommended an increase in the fund allotment for rejuvenation from Rs.15,000 to Rs.17,500 per hectare, taking into account the higher input cost. Similarly, a higher subsidy of Rs.40 per seedling has been recommended for replanting. The upgraded subsidies have to be approved by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation. The programme is expected to be completed in a year in the districts of Wayanad and Idukki where the area to be covered is less compared to other districts.
The total area targeted for implementing the scheme in Kerala was 1.33 lakh hectares and 2000 hectares in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. During the project period, an area of 1.37 lakh hectares was covered in Kerala and 2000 hectares in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Projects worth Rs 234.45 crore were approved by the Board for the implementation in three districts of Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar islands. The union government had sanctioned Rs. 141.12 crore for the projects, according to the Board.