KOCHI: Policy intervention by the state in terms of a minimum support price, replantation schemes, permission for intercrop cultivation and encouraging value addition through cluster development is the way forward for sustaining the plantation sector in the state, said the Association of Planters of Kerala (APK) on Friday.
APK says there’s dearth of fresh investment pertaining to the plantation sector in the state as the cost of production in Kerala is greater than other states.“With diminishing returns, the productivity per unit area is reducing over the years,” said Thomas Jacob, chairman, APK.Adding to the woes, the unprecedented monsoon and subsequent flood have caused widespread damages to the plantation sector as a whole.
As per scientific estimates, the loss across the four major plantation crops is around Rs 3,070 crore. Natural Rubber crop leads the list with Rs 1,604 crore, cardamom with Rs 1,010 crore, tea with Rs 209 crore and coffee with Rs 176 crore.
The high cost of production and low productivity coupled with price realisation below the cost of production have been plaguing the industry since 2012-13. “We used to produce commodities to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore in 2011-12, which has come down to 7,000 crore in 2017-18,” said Thomas. With respect to tea, during 2017-18, the production in the state was 62.33 million kg with a productivity of 1780 kg/ha.
The average price realised during 2017-18 by Kerala origin tea was Rs 108/kg whereas the cost of production was well above Rs 140/kg.
With rubber, as per the provisional data available, the total production of Natural Rubber is estimated to be 5,39,230 tonnes with a productivity of 1622 kg/ha. This productivity estimate is based on actual tapped area.It may be noted that nearly 25 per cent of a tappable area are left untapped due to financial unviability. The average price realised for RSS IV grade during 2017-18 was Rs 129.80/kg and for RSS V was Rs 126.46/kg. The cost of production of Kerala is estimated to be Rs 172 to Rs 175/kg.
Cardamom, recorded an estimated production of 18,340 tonnes in 2017-18 with a productivity of 469 kg/ha. The average price realised during the year 2017-18 was Rs 953/kg. The average cost of production of Kerala is estimated to be Rs 1250/kg. The total coffee production in Kerala during 2017-18 was 65,735 MT with an average productivity of 774 kg/ha. The average price realisation for Robusta Cherry AB in 2017 was Rs 130/ kg.
- Cultivation of fruit trees, bamboo, indigenous trees of timber value as intercrop, multi-crop or standalone crop without changing the basic structure of an existing plantation.
- Support through climate change mitigation fund to the plantation sector for soil conservation, water conservation and biodiversity strengthening.
- By encouraging value addition through cluster development schemes of the state, the returns to the grower and employment opportunity can be substantially increased.
- A minimum support price for plantation crops as per the formula recommended by M S Swaminathan Commission may be introduced.