Coffee crop loss assessment sought

Madikeri: Newly appointed Coffee Board members from Kodagu, A. Nanda Belliappa, Chandramati Ganesh and Faiz Musa Kutty have urged the Board to send a team of officials to Kodagu, Chikmagalur and Hassan districts within a week’s time to assess the coffee crop loss following unseasonal rainfall in the last few days.

Speaking to presspersons here on Tuesday, Mr. Belliappa, who represents large growers on the Board, said that rains had wrought havoc on fully ripe Arabica coffee, Robusta also to a certain extent, in the coffee growing districts of Kodagu, Chikmaglur and Hassan. Ripe berries were falling off the plants because of the excess rains. Many growers have lost up to 20 to 50 per cent of the standing coffee crop.

However, the members wanted the Coffee Board team to visit the plantations personally to assess the exact loss, he said.

Chandramati Ganesh, a member representing the small growers on the Board, said the growers in Kodagu suffered heavy losses in the past three years because of the vagaries of nature such as excess unseasonal rainfall and pest infestations. She suggested that the team should submit a report to the Board after assessing crop loss. The report should be placed before the Board meeting scheduled to be held in Bangalore on January 7, she added.

In reply to a query on the non-payment of compensation to growers for crop loss in Kodagu during 2007-08 and 2008-09, Mr. Belliappa and Ms. Ganesh said they would talk to the Deputy Commissioner in that regard. The Swaminathan Committee had recommended payment of a compensation of Rs. 1,500 crore for various kinds of crop loss in Kerala during 2006. They said that the Government should announce such a package for coffee growers who had suffered crop loss in the three districts.

According to Mr. Belliappa, H. Vishwanath, Mysore MP, and R. Dhruvanarayan, Chamarajanagar MP, have written to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to issue directions to the banks through the Reserve Bank of India not to pressure coffee growers to clear their loans till a special debt relief package was announced. He added that the banks were forcing the growers to settle their accounts under the One-Time Settlement (OTS) Scheme. He showed copies of the letters issued by banks to coffee growers to clear their debt to presspersons.

Mr. Belliappa said there were at least three proposals sent by various coffee organisations to the Union Commerce Ministry seeking debt relief package. The Coffee Board, in association with a few growers’ organisations, had submitted a proposal seeking Rs. 805-crore debt waiver package. It would definitely come through in a few days as it was before the Union Cabinet, Mr. Belliappa said.

In reply to a query, he said that the proposal was not held up by the Government because the large growers wanted the loans availed by them for purchase of plantations included in the package. The vice-president of the Karnataka Growers’ Federation, Basappa, said it was only a ploy of certain growers to mislead the growers’ community.

When asked whether the coffee growers had held back stocks in anticipation of remunerative price, Mr. Faiz Musa Kutty, who represents the curers on the Coffee Board, said no such thing had happened. He added that it is estimated that the coffee produce will be down by 30 per cent this year.

B.M. Suresh, president of the Somwarpet Taluk Coffee Growers’ Association, said Arabica growers, particularly in and around Somwarpet taluk, had suffered crop loss for over a decade now. The main reason for crop loss was excess rainfall and pests.

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-The Hindu

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