Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said he is expecting a positive response from Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on the State government’s demand for resumption of copra procurement by the National Agriculture Cooperative Federation (Nafed).

He said on Wednesday that the decision of the Nafed to suspend copra procurement had resulted in a major set back to coconut famers. He had made a strong plea for withdrawing the Central government’s decision to impose a limit on the reimbursement of loss to 15 per cent of the cost of procurement, and restore the terms of procurement adopted last year. Unless this was done, this year’s copra procurement programme would fail, he said.

Mr. Chandy said the Centre had decided to impose a 20 per cent import duty on rubber following the joint pressure put by the government and the Members of Parliament. The import duty of Rs.20 a kg had been fixed at a time when the domestic price of rubber was ruling high. Currently, rubber prices were ruling low. Consequent to the imposing of a 20 per cent import duty, importers would have to incur Rs.34 a kg as import duty, he added.

Visit of Central team on drought

Mr. Chandy said the Central Drought Team will visit the State from March 17. A high-level meeting of Central government officials would be held on Thursday to discuss the drought situation in Kerala, during which the modalities would be worked out. When asked about the irregularities in the farm loan waiver scheme as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. Chandy did not rule out the possibilities because large number people who had taken gold loan for non-agriculture purposes had got the benefit.

With regard to the opposition of the National Highway Authority of India to the launch of Kochi Metro work without additional land acquisition, Mr. Chandy said he had convinced the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways C.P. Joshi about the importance of launching the work without disrupting the traffic on the national highway. The NHAI had wanted the widening the existing National Highway 47 in the Aluva-Edapally stretch where Kochi Metro proposed to launch the initial part of the metro viaduct construction.