Relief sought for farmers

Staff Reporter

KOZHIKODE: The Kerala Congress(J) has demanded that the State Government declare a moratorium on bank loans availed of by

farmers in Wayanad district, who have been caught in a debt trap owing to a fall in the prices of agriculture commodities and increase in the cost of production.

The farm produce of Kerala should be brought under insurance cover.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, KC(J) State president P.J. Joseph criticised the Government for its lack of sympathy when the agriculture sector was experiencing the worst crisis ever, especially in the Wayanad district. Suicides by farmers are also on the rise. The Government should expedite relief measures, he added.

KC(J) Parliamentary party leader and former Union Minister of State for Law P.C. Thomas, secretary Scaria Thomas, among others, were present at the press conference.

"The State Government has failed to address the issue. Considering the fall in the price of the mainstay agriculture produce of Wayanad such as ginger, coffee, and pepper, the Government should declare a total moratorium on a long-term basis on all loans availed of by agriculturists. We will wait for a week for the Government to act. If no step is taken, we will launch protest programmes," Mr. Joseph said.

`Rein in moneylenders'

Activities of private moneylenders who harass farmers need to be reined in, as they seek high rates of interest. A loan of Rs.1 lakh after three years totals Rs.3

lakhs. Farmers, unable to pay back the money, commit suicide.

"Cooperative banks adopt a tough stance and initiate mortgage proceedings for non-payment. More than 75 per cent loans taken by farmers are not farm loans technically and mortgage proceedings can be initiated," Mr. Joseph added.

"The State Government has not sought the farm relief package sanctioned for States reeling under drought, crop failure and resultant farmer suicides," he said.

The party representatives submitted a memorandum to Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar to bring the agriculture produce of Kerala under the eligible list of the National Agriculture Insurance Company.

"None of Kerala crops have been included in the list. We have demanded their inclusion by December 15. The insurance cover was not only for drought but for climatic factors and fall in price of agriculture commodities too," Mr. Joseph said.

He added that bio-control steps be taken up to combat the bud rot in coconut in Kuttiadi and yellow leaf disease in areca palms in the State.