Official says assessment has been done and 17,850 acres out of 18,000 acres were found to be affected

Farmers from various parts of the district, who have raised coconut trees especially in areas like Watrap, Srivilliputtur and Rajapalayam assembled here on Friday and urged the district administration to provide a compensation at the rate of Rs.50,000 for loss of crop in an acre.

N. A. Singaraj, district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Coconut Farmers Association, told The Hindu that coconut trees raised on 8,500 acres in Watrap union had withered due to lack of sufficient rain consecutively for the past five years.

Open wells and bore-wells bore the brunt of drought condition leading to a drop in groundwater level. In addition, power shutdown for long hours during the last two years had dealt a heavy blow to these farmers. Farmers with a large acreage had tried their level best to save at least some trees by purchasing water.

However, small and marginal farmers were the worst hit as they could not get a remunerative price for their produce as the State government does not fix a procurement price for coconuts as in the case of paddy.

“We highlighted our plight through a representation with photo evidence during the farmers’ grievance day meeting held here on August 23,” Mr. Singaraj said and added that there was no response to the demand for relief till the next meeting held on September 20. The issue snowballed into a big problem with farmers staging a walk-out from the meeting and demanding the ouster of District Collector T.N. Hariharan and forwarding the same to the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, and the Chief Secretary.

Mr. Singaraj pointed out that paddy farmers in the delta districts had been given a relief of Rs. 13,500 for an acre. So, they have every right to demand relief of Rs.50,000 per acre. He claimed that Agriculture Department officials held talks with them but their offer was meagre. He also announced that they would intensify their agitation in the days to come.

When contacted, District Revenue Officer S. Munusamy, told The Hindu that a spot assessment had been made and it was found that 43,000 coconut trees, raised on 5,000 acres by 12,000 farmers, were affected. A report has been sent to the higher-ups and it was up to the government to decide the quantum of relief and the time of distribution, he added.

Joint Director of Agriculture Subbiah said that an assessment had been done and 17,850 acres out of 18,000 acres were found to be affected. A report was sent to the government and a decision has been taken to disbursed a compensation of only Rs 4,000 per acre.