Relief package placed before State Cabinet subcommittee
The Union and the State governments are expected to jointly provide assistance to coconut growers in 11 districts of Karnataka who have been in distress for over two years following large-scale devastation of coconut palms due to moisture stress and pest attacks.
Sources in the State government told The Hindu that a comprehensive package had been finalised by an official team and placed before a Cabinet subcommittee. After getting the Cabinet approval, the package would be forwarded to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
The Centre has tentatively agreed to provide special assistance to Karnataka under the aegis of the National Horticulture Mission and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for the benefit of coconut growers. A high-level team from the State under the chairmanship of Minister for Horticulture Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Principal Secretary, Horticulture, M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda along with several members of Parliament from the State recently called on Mr. Pawar.
The cost of providing relief to coconut growers (nearly Rs. 580 crore) will be shared by the Union and State governments in the ratio 50:50 and this is the first time that such a massive assistance scheme is being extended to the growers of one horticultural crop.
Karnataka has been seeking the support of the Centre to provide relief to coconut growers for nearly two years. The major coconut growing districts in the State are Mysore, Mandya, Shimoga, Chikmagalur, Chamarajanagar, Tumkur, Hassan, Chitradurga, Bangalore Rural, Chickballapur and Kolar.
According to a report prepared by the State Horticulture Department, coconut plantations on 1.65 lakh hectares of land have been either totally devastated or affected partially.
“Nearly 2 crore coconut palms have dried up in about two years due to lack of rain and due to diseases and pest attacks.” A Central study team comprising senior scientists had recently toured the affected areas and submitted a report to the government.
The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who represents the Hassan Lok Sabha constituency which largely comprises of coconut growing areas, has also made a representation to the Union government and requested for assistance.
The State Cabinet subcommittee on coconut is headed by Minister for Revenue V. Srinivas Prasad and includes Minister for Law T.B. Jayachandra, Minister for Agriculture Krishna Byre Gowda apart from Mr. Shivashankarappa.
Coconut is an important plantation crop of Karnataka. It is grown on nearly 4.91 lakh hectares of land, accounting for 26 per cent of the total area under horticultural crops in the State. The State produces 528 crore coconuts a year and ranks second in the country. Coconut is cultivated mostly in the south interior parts and coastal regions of Karnataka.
Rs. 1,000-cr. loss
Nearly 70 per cent of the total coconut growing area has been severely affected due to recurrent dry spell in over two years, resulting in an estimated loss of over Rs. 1,000 crore.
Moisture stress in soil has resulted in low productivity and this is expected to have an impact for at least two years despite good rain during this monsoon.