R&D crucial to save plantation industry

UPASI urges govt to restore funds for tea research

Coimbatore, September 12:  

The Indian plantation industry is in a paradox, caught between the inability to introduce large-scale mechanisation on one hand, and the need to improve crop productivity on the other.

Be it tea, coffee, rubber or spices such as cardamom and pepper, there are concerns regarding the drop in yield levels. While there is the need to address this issue, industry sources aver that among plantation commodities, only tea research is undertaken by the industry, while for rubber, coffee and spices, the research is carried out by the Commodity Boards with full funding by the government.

Tea research was being funded at 80 per cent, but this was reduced to 49 per cent during the 12th Plan period, affecting tea research quite adversely, according to sources.

UPASI (United Planters Association of Southern India), the apex body of plantations in the South, which is organising a two-day annual meet in Coonoor from today, is now requesting the government to reconsider funding tea research at 80 per cent as it was during the 11th Plan period. There also appears to be some implementation issues in Tea Board schemes, be it towards annual allocation or developmental schemes..

Research and development in coffee in India seem even worse when compared to other coffee-growing countries or R&D achievements in other plantation crops such as tea, rubber and spices.

A proactive R&D department is necessary to deliver cutting-edge technological advances in production, productivity, agronomical practices and post-harvest technology. UPASI suggested that the research being carried out by the Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI) be synchronised with the requirements of coffee growers.

As in tea, replanting is also an important investment in coffee to improve the production and productivity of estates to make it sustainable.

Rubber, pepper

In rubber, the fall in production has been attributed to larger untapped areas and lower productivity of trees – both due to low price realisation and adverse global demand-supply equation.

UPASI suggested a medium-term framework scheme for the rubber sector, particularly the estate sector, which is in dire need of financial support, and a structured and holistic replanting scheme for cardamom.

Reverting to pepper, the association pointed out that a proposal is pending before the National Horticultural Mission, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, for over five years now.

(This article was published on September 12, 2017)

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