Mani and Joseph to attend meet today

Immediate waiver of all farm loans and sanctioning of a relief package for farmers of Kozhikode district have been demanded by the leaders of Kerala Congress (M).

Party's district leaders said at a press conference here on Friday that they were confident the UDF government would concede thee demands since their leader K.M. Mani, “who had always been sympathetic to farmers' demands,” was also the Finance Minister in the UDF government.

They also demanded schemes to support farmers who had lost yielding coconut and areca nut trees to diseases until the newly planted trees began yielding returns and restoration of rights to farmers to sell mahogany and teak trees from their land for funds to lessen their financial woes. The district unit of the party would hold a meeting here on Saturday to discuss the crisis in the farm sector and suggest remedial measures. Besides Mr. Mani, party senior leaders P.J .Joseph, Water Resources Minister, and P.C. George, Government Chief Whip, would attend the meet, John Poothakuzhy, KC (M) district president, and T.M. Joseph, convener of the meet, said.

A study conducted by the district leaders found that the main cause of farmers' misery in the district was the outbreak of diseases that had led to sharp decline in production. “Crippling plant diseases like bud rot and mahali and pests like coconut mite have devastated coconut and areca nut gardens. To compound their problems, coconut price has fallen but prices of fertilizers have shot up. Since nearly 90 per cent of farmers depend on coconut and areca nut for survival, a grave financial crisis has gripped farmers' households,” Mr. Poothakuzhy said.

Since the situation had not improved in the farm sector for nearly 20 years, generous relief measures like waiver of farm loans would be needed to mitigate farmers' misery, he added.