Union Minister for Commerce Anand Sharma has assured Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that his Ministry will take steps to protect the interests of rubber farmers, particularly those in Kerala, who have been agitating on the steep fall in the procurement prices of rubber due to imports. He will direct the Central agencies to procure more rubber directly from the farmers.

Mr. Sharma agreed to consider the request of Mr. Chandy to increase the rubber planting subsidy to 30 per cent from the present 20 per cent. Mr. Sharma reportedly told Mr. Chandy that the Central government was committed to protecting the interests of farmers, in general, and small rubber growers, in particular.

Natural rubber was in the exclusion list of the ASEAN agreement and there was no place for any apprehension for the people of Kerala, he told Mr. Chandy.

Mr. Chandy discussed about the proposed Rs.15-crore Spices Park with state-of-the-art facilities in Wayanad and opening of a convention centre in Kochi.

New KPCC chief

Mr. Chandy also met Congress general secretary in charge of Kerala Mukul Wasnik and discussed about the appointment of a new president for the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). The names of G. Karthikeyan, V.M. Sudheeran, and V.D. Satheesan are doing rounds for appointment of new KPCC president.

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