Kochi: A Rs100 crore programme for replantation of pepper covering 23,000 hectares in the northern district of Wayanad in Kerala and the north-eastern region of the country covering Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya should help the plantation sector raise productivity, according to Anand Sharma, Union minister for commerce and industry.
Deliberations with the Planning Commission to raise the subsidy for rubber replantation from 20% to 30% will also help the plantation sector to be competitive over the next few years, he also expressed.
He was at Rubber Research Institute of India under the Rubber Board at Kottayam in central Kerala on Tuesday to release two new rubber clones which were presented to farmers.
“I do not blame the farmers for their concerns over the reduction of import tariff under the free trade agreement with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to become operational from 2010,” he said, adding that it was in this backdrop that the government was initiating steps to improve the productivity.
The pepper replantation programme comes after a similar Rs200 crore one for the pepper-growing district of Idukki in central Kerala was announced early this year. The Spices Board, the government trade promotion agency, will overlook the new replantation programme too which will have a subsidy element of Rs53 crore.
Root wilt disease and bee wasp attacks on the poles on which pepper vines creep have literally destroyed 70% of the crop in Wayanad which till two decades ago accounted for an annual production of 40,000 tonne that has now gone down to 8,000 tonnes.
He said his ministry was aware of the issues facing rubber growers who had to go in for massive replantation. Given the seven-year gestation period before the tree starts giving yield, the ministry would request the Planning Commission to raise the subsidy from the preset 20% to 30. The cost of replanting is estimated to be Rs1 lakh per hectare and now the farmer gets Rs20,000 as subsidy.
The Union Cabinet would soon be clearing a massive proposal for debt waiver aimed at small growers having less than 10 hectares of plantation, he added.