Our Bureau

Mangalore, Aug. 25

CONGRESS workers led by the Chief Whip in Karnataka Legislative Assembly, Mr K. Abhaya Chandra Jain, and the former Karnataka Minister, Mr B. Ramanatha Rai, have urged the Union Government to announce a special package for arecanut growers.

Mr Rai told reporters here on Thursday that even the Congress wanted a special package for arecanut growers similar to the one announced for the coffee sector. Arecanut growers held meetings in Sullia, Puttur, Vittal, Belthangady and Kadaba areas in Dakshina Kannada district on non-political basis, seeking a special package from the Union Government.

Stating that a convention of arecanut growers would be held in Mangalore in September, Mr Rai said several experts and State and Central ministers would be invited.

CBI probe sought

Alleging that some board members in the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd had "misappropriated" funds, Mr Rai called for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Mr Jain, and the Government-nominated directors of Campco, Mr Ivan D'Souza and Mr Pramod Kumar Rai, who were present on the occasion, said Campco was suffering losses due to the `misappropriation' of funds.

Though the Karnataka Government had appointed Campco as the nodal agency for purchasing arecanut with minimum support price under the market intervention scheme, all growers have not benefited, they said.

Of the Rs 10 crore earmarked for the scheme, the Karnataka Government has released Rs 4 crore.

A delegation of arecanut growers would meet the Chief Minister, Mr Dharam Singh, requesting him to release the remaining Rs 6 crore, Mr Jain said.

Stating that arecanut imports were affecting growers in the country, he said a delegation of elected representatives from Karnataka and Kerala would meet the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister to seek a hike in excise duty on arecanut.

Mr Pramodkumar Rai said Campco's decision to return the share capital of the Karnataka and Kerala governments would affect the cooperative.

"The board has decided to return share capital of Rs 5 crore to these states. This will bring down the arecanut purchasing capacity of the cooperative by Rs 200 crore," he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 26, 2005)
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