They seek a special package for growing alternative crops

Arecanut growers whose plantations have been hit by yellow leaf disease (YLD) in Sullia taluk of Dakshina Kannada have rejected a proposal of the government to replace disease-hit palms with new saplings under a scheme of the National Horticulture Mission.

A meeting of growers from the disease-hit villages of Aranthodu, Todikana, Markanja, Sampaje, and Ubaradkka in Sullia taluk on Thursday rejected the government's offer stating that such an experiment earlier by growers had failed.

These villages are close to Markanja from where Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda hails.

The Department of Horticulture had convened the meeting under the chairmanship of S. Angara, Sullia MLA, to discuss with farmers the modalities of implementing the scheme. President of the Sullia Taluk Panchayat Keshava Muliya, presidents of gram panchayats, and other elected representatives took part in the meeting, a senior official from the department told The Hindu.

The scheme proposed sanctioning of a financial assistance of Rs. 15,000 per hectare of land for removing the disease-hit palms, transporting them, and planting new saplings. A farmer was eligible to get assistance for a maximum of two hectares of land, he said.

The government proposed to sanction Rs. 1.25 crore to 1,500 hectares of land in Dakshina Kannada, he said.

Naveen Kumar Menala, Chairman, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry, Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat, who attended the meeting, told The Hindu that the growers' demands were genuine.

He said that it was not possible to rejuvenate disease-hit plantations as the disease affected newly planted saplings.

An affected grower, K. Vasanth Rao of Todikana, told The Hindu that he had repeated the exercise of removing disease-hit palms and planting new saplings at his plantation thrice.

Mr. Menala said the growers sought an economic package for growing alternative crops. The Department of Horticulture did not have the comprehensive statistics of the area under disease and the affected growers. “We have asked the officials of the department to prepare a report within 10 days by consulting cooperative societies, gram panchayats, and farmers,” he added.

Waiver sought

The official said that farmers had demanded that the government declare an economic package for growing alternative crops such as oil palm and rubber. This package should be given till they harvested the first crop. They had sought waiving of crop loans taken by growers as the disease had destroyed arecanut palms.

The growers' had sought another meeting with the Horticulture Minister and the Director of Horticulture to apprise them of the seriousness of the issue.

Mr. Rao said that there was no point in discussing the issue with the district-level officials who were not decision-makers.

He said that the MLA had promised to convene another meeting would be held in the presence of the Horticulture Minister and the Director of Horticulture.

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