To help the beleaguered plantation sector in the State, the Kerala government has announced a slew of measures in its plantation policy for improving the financial, employment generation and environmental sustainability of plantation areas in the State.
Announcing the policy, the State Labour Minister TP Ramakrishnan said the government intends to strengthen the sector for the protection of workers.
The ₹13,000-crore plantation industry, on value of products, employs 3.5 lakh people and nearly 30 per cent of the cultivated area in the State are occupied by plantation crops. The value of products in 2013-14 was ₹21,000 crore which has come down to ₹13,000 crore in the last five years due to low prices and high cost of production, sources added.
What’s in the policy
The new policy, which was drafted based on Justice Krishnan Nair Commission recommendations, focuses on improving workers’ living conditions with good remuneration and other facilities, increasing productivity of crops, diversification, procurement of products, processing, marketing, manufacturing of value-added products, and ensuring a market for the crops. The policy envisages inter-cropping and mixed cropping in gardens, reopening of estates, allowing ancillary agricultural activities such as dairying, poultry, farming and tourism projects in plantations.
SB Prabhakar, Chairman, Association of Planters of Kerala, said the policy, if implemented in the right earnest, will revolutionise employment generation and food security of the State. However, amendments to certain acts and rules are required for the smooth implementation of the policy, he added.
According to Santosh Kumar, Executive Director, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, the new policy will help the industry to increase return from the unit area of land by diversified crop production and inter-cropping and multi cropping.
Besides, the resolution of lease issues and continuation of leases will give stability to the sector where land is a factor of production.