The projected growth of the agriculture sector for the financial year 2010-11 has been put at four per cent, K. V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Agriculture has said. Addressing the Executive Committee meeting of Kerala Karshaka Congress here on Tuesday, Mr. Thomas said this would mean doubling of the growth rate for the agriculture sector against the growth rate during the last financial year. To achieve the projected growth rate, the poultry and fisheries sectors would have to grow at the rate of eight per cent, he said.

The Central government has decided to unveil a series of strategies to bring about the quick paced growth of the agriculture sector, he said, adding that the edible oil sector would have to develop rapidly to meet the increasing needs. As such, the government has decided to support any number of projects being placed before it. He said the Oil Palm India Ltd. has been asked to forward viable proposals for the development of oil palm cultivation. The Central government would extend both financial and technical support for the edible oil projects, he said.

A proposal to revamp the Coconut Development Board is under consideration, the Minister said, and added that it would be restructured on the line of the Rubber Board, which would enable toe coconut farmers to avail single window support covering all aspects of coconut cultivation.

In the cashew sector, the country would confront a crisis in the not so distant future, as the African nations who provide the factories with raw cashew were now acquiring processing technology. As such a massive cashew plantation drive in the country was in the offing, he said. Setting up of a Cashew Board is also under active consideration of the Government, he said.

Mr. Thomas said the wild price fluctuations in the agriculture sector would have to contained effectively to create a conducive climate to help the farming community to ensure remunerative price for their produces. The Central government has decided to set up chains of deep freezing facilities and cold storages to extend the shelf life of agriculture produces. In addition, trains with cold storage facilities would also introduced to ease the pressure on movement of agriculture produces.

According to him, the arecca nut farmers are facing a new challenge as the demand for arecca has come down drastically. The government has decided upon a multi pronged strategy, which would on one hand extend financial support to the farmers, but on the other, find ways to help shift the arecca nut framers to other crops.

Mr. Thomas also said that a Farm Tribunal was under consideration to identify and find solutions both legal and otherwise, to deal with the issues related to agriculture. Lal Varghese Kalpakavadi, president Kerala Karshaka Congress(I), presided over the meeting.

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