‘Help medium and large coffee growers tide over crisis'
The Karnataka Planters Association (KPA) has urged the Union Government to consider medium and large coffee growers under the debt relief package to help them tide over the crisis. The Union Government had covered only small and marginal growers in the package announced by it recently.
A memorandum was submitted by the association to Rahul Khuller, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, and A.K. Mangotra, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, D. Anil Savur, secretary of the association, said in a statement here on Thursday.
Medium and large growers too faced difficulties in the coffee sector and sops should be extended to them as well, the association urged the Union Government. Association chairman K.M. Nanaiah too had written to Mr. Mangotra on these demands recently.
The association has urged the Union Government to exempt the plantation industry from paying customs duty on the purchase of import of machinery needed for pre and post harvest coffee activities. The plantation industry was facing labour shortage which had affected the day-to-day operations and harvesting process.
The association had urged the Union Government to consider growers with over 20 hectares of land for concessions with regard to upgrading quality, augmenting water and initiating pollution control measures in the industry. Growers with over 20 hectares, partnership firms and corporate firms are kept out of the purview of the scheme.
The association also suggested to the Union Government to extend the market development assistance scheme to coffee focussing on exports to countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The Ministry of Commerce implemented the scheme covering all exporters irrespective of the product they exported every year. The existing scheme, however, would have to be fine-tuned specifically for the coffee market.
The damage to last year's (2009-10) crop such as coffee, pepper, cardamom, arecanut due to extreme weather conditions was immense in the Malnad region. Heavy rain in the October-December period last year had resulted in the “dropping” of Arabica coffee berries. Poor drying of coffee had robbed the quality of the commodity. Fungal infection to standing ripened berries too had lowered the quality of coffee, the statement said.
Arabica loss in Chikmagalur district last year was in the range of 30 per cent while it was between 15 per cent and 20 per cent in Kodagu and Hassan districts. Unseasonable rain had also affected Robusta crop at the time of harvesting, the statement said.
Apart from that, scanty rainfall during March and April this year had resulted in weak coffee blossoms in Kodagu, Chikmagalur and Hassan districts, the statement said. Therefore, the Union Government should instruct the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), the Coffee Board and the Lead Banks in the districts to take steps to assess the extent of loss of crop this year.
The plantation industry required free flow of fertilizers but threats had emerged on account of a nutrient-based subsidy plan of the Union Government. Controlled subsidised fertilizers such as urea and de-controlled subsidised fertilizer such as DAP and MOP were not available easily, the statement added.
The association would also advocate the idea of crop diversification or change of crop pattern which allowed for unrestricted conversion of one plantation to another. Growers should be allowed to cultivate medicinal and herbal plants, oil palm, bamboo, horticulture, floriculture, fruits and vegetables, vanilla, and take up dairy farming in their plantations, the association said. Even tourism-linked activities could be allowed without affecting ecology, it added.
The association cautioned the Union Government stating that the recent signing of the Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN would have catastrophic effect on the Indian plantation sector as it was not competitive, cost-wise.
According to the Union Government policy, importing commodities for re-exporting was exempt from import duty. This would jeopardise the coffee industry. The compulsions of the Union Government apart, it ought to protect the domestic industry, particularly coffee, as a large number of people depended on it.
The association had also given representations to the State Government for rationalising corporate taxes in line with the Central Income Tax rates and exempt partnership firms from payment of Agriculture Income Tax. It had also sought an increase in replanting allowance and the Union Government should impress upon the State Government to concede its demands.