Areca growers' association demands waiver of interest on farm loans

Off-season rain in the past fortnight has hit the areca growers in Dakshina Kannada as it is the season of harvesting and drying of arecanut.

Sensing the impact rain would have on the livelihood of farmers, the All India Areca Growers Association had urged the Government to waive interest on all kinds of loans availed by farmers.

Manchi Srinivasa Achar, president of the Puttur-based association, told The Hindu that it was raining in prominent areca-growing taluks of Sullia, Puttur, Belthangady, Bantwal and parts of Mangalore. Areca production was bound to fall in 2010-11 as rain had hit the standing crop. Areca growers were worried how to harvest and dry remaining ripened raw nuts in plantations.

Mr. Achar said paddy growers were facing a crisis after harvesting the crop. They had not been able to dry paddy fodder for cattle. Continued rain had affected vegetable growers. The Government come to the rescue of farmers by waiving interest on all loans taken by them.

He said the Government should ask agriculture and horticulture departments to conduct a study to assess the loss suffered by areca growers.

At this juncture, the Government should take steps to distribute plastic sheets to areca growers for erecting shade nets to dry ripened areca. This way they would be able to save whatever raw nuts were left in the plantations.

Ramesh Kainthaje, an agriculturist and a member of the committee which recently worked out the revised production cost of arecanut for the Government, said continued rain had resulted in early ripening of nuts. Almost every farmer had “lost” about 30 to 40 per cent of standing crop by now. Small and marginal farmers were the worst hit.

Mr. Kainthaje said normally some ripened raw nuts started falling in plantations after every Navarathri. This “loss” could be about 10 per cent.

The first harvest should have been commenced from mid-November. Poor farmers had no alternative but their courtyard to dry harvested nuts. Erecting plastic shade nuts would be an expensive proposition.

“Imagine the chain reaction the loss will have on the livelihood of farmers shortly,'' Mr. Kainthaje said.

Mr. Achar said the elected representatives of the region should take up the issue of areca growers with the Government.

Sridhar G Bhide, former President of Mangalore Agriculturists' Sahakari Sangha (MASS), said continued rain was sure to hit the quality of produce this time. Production would come down, as paddy crop had already been washed away in rains.

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