Kochi: The Rs4,700 crore special purpose tea fund (SPTF) will be launched for the southern region on Saturday but the replantation programme for other plantations, such as coffee, pepper and cardamom are awaiting government nod.
The SPTF for the replantation programme, spread over 213,000ha for replantation, and 171,000ha for rejuvenation, where tea bushes would be pruned, is expected to be completed within 15 years. Kerala and Tamil Nadu, two states in south India, account for 22% of the entire plan, while Assam and West Bengal, where the programme was launched in July, account for 46% and 28%. The remaining 4% is spread over a few states across the country.
Senility of most of the plantation crops has brought down yield and jacked up their cost of production. This has prompted the government to undertake the measure.
According to Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce, the plantation sector must tackle the issue of senility and remain competitive in the domestic and global market. He blames the government for the delay in launch of the replantation plan in other crops.
“Had the finance ministry been a bit proactive, we could have launched these programmes last year itself,” said Ramesh, who will inaugurate the SPTF scheme in the south.
Under SPTF provisions, 50% of the cost can come to a grower in the form of loan from banks and cooperative societies and 25% as subsidy from the government trade promotion body, the Tea Board.
This means growers will need to bear one-fourth of the cost.
In the case of coffee, where around 90,000ha land is proposed to be replanted, the initiative will start sometime in June. The proposal, which is expected to cost of Rs1 lakh for replantation of higher quality Arabica variety in 1ha and Rs80,000 for per ha of Robusta is pending government clearance and approval.
According to the proposal, 40% of the amount will be subsidized for small growers owning land up to 4ha, 30% for medium growers holding land between 4ha and 8ha, and 20% for large growers. Banks would provide 50% of the cost for replanting.
R. Reddy, joint director in the Coffee Board, said coffee seeds have been planted and the plants can be made available to the growers in June when the planting season starts. Coffee growers admit that the replantation exercise could have begun in September, had the government nod been in place by that time.
A new variety of Arabica coffee, developed by the Central Coffee Research Institute in Karnataka, was introduced last week.
The variety, ‘Chandragiri,’ which is resistant to the disease of coffee leaf rust that affects the leaves and drastically hampers productivity, should see used widely when replantation is undertaken, said Ramesh. Little progress has been made for new pepper vines, where the proposal is to cover around 70,000ha at a cost of Rs476 crore over the next five years.
The government initially wanted the National Horticulture Mission to initiate the replantation programme but the national body has given the assignment to the Kerala Horticulture Mission.
The ministry of commerce had written several times to Kerala chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, suggesting that the government trade promotion body, the Spices Board, was ready to collaborate with the state government on replantation.