Special Correspondent

Agro processing units to be set up across the State It will provide a local market for farmers practising organic cultivation

Thiruvananthapuram: The Department of Agriculture has unveiled a scheme to set up a State-wide network of tender coconut parlours and agro processing units. The scheme, focussing on value addition and post harvest management, has been proposed under the Vision 2010 programme for Kerala's development and poverty alleviation.

While an amount of Rs.125 lakh has been earmarked for setting up tender coconut parlours, Rs.25 lakh would be spent on sales outlets for value- added and processed agricultural products and organic farm produce. The outlay for establishment of micro-enterprises has been fixed at Rs.380 lakh.

The scheme is aimed at generating employment for youth in rural areas and attracting unemployed youth to the agriculture sector. It also seeks to ensure more remuneration for farmers and promote eco-friendly business ventures. As many as 500 tender coconut parlours are to be opened in the State. Mobile units with refrigeration facility have been proposed.

Principal Agricultural Officers in each district have been directed to give publicity for the programme and take steps for implementation with the active involvement of panchayats and Karshika Vikasana Samitis. The department is extending financial assistance at 25 per cent of the total cost, up to a maximum of Rs.12,500. The balance fund is to be mobilised as loans or beneficiary contribution. For bank loans, the subsidy would be transferred to the bank and kept in suspense account in the name of the beneficiary. The subsidy would be credited to the loan account on completion of the project. The value-added and processed agricultural products that would be promoted through sales outlets include rice, organic rice, rice bran oil, fruits and vegetable products, spices and coconut-based products.