The 2019-20 Kerala Budget presented in the State Assembly on Thursday has proposed major initiatives on the agricultural front as part of reviving the fortunes of an economy ravaged by the 2018 floods.

“Environmental awareness is sought to be created in not just our overall attitude but also in the development works being planned,” Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said in the budget, the first after the floods.

Kuttanad Package

Isaac announced a second phase of the Kuttanad Package worth ₹1,000 crore. As part of this package, a one-time cleaning of backwaters and other water sources will be undertaken. Plastic and other waste materials will be removed.

The depth of the backwaters will be increased by removing the silt; they will be strengthened by reconstructing the outer bunds. A sum of ₹47 crore has been earmarked for their repair and construction.

‘The Thanneermukkom Bund’ will be kept open at least for one year for cleaning, by letting in salt water. Environmental impact study and agricultural calendar could be completed and public consensus ensured to do it this year itself.

The floods had destroyed not only property but also livelihood of lakhs of people. Agriculture, handicrafts, and small and medium enterprises were totally destroyed.

Malabar coffee

For two months, the labour market had witnessed total stagnation. In addition to property loss, there has been an estimated income loss of ₹25,000 crore. The speciality of this Annual Plan is the focus on livelihood development, Isaac said.

In another major initiative, the Minister announced that the coffee bean cultivated in the carbon-neutral Wayanad hills will be branded globally as Malabar Coffee.

A project will be formulated in this hilly district in the North of the state for reducing carbon emissions to the maximum possible extent and also to plant enough trees to absorb remaining carbon gases.

Such a system has been formulated in the panchayat of Meenangadi. Steps will be taken to obtain carbon credits from global market through meticulous documentation, including geo-tagging, for tree planting.

Coconut, rice, rubber

The Minister said ₹50 would be given as loan every year for each tree. The loan needs to be repaid only when the trees are cut down. The State government will give guarantee for this to the bank.

Along with this, schemes will be formulated for other value-added agricultural products such as jack fruit. Special attention will be given to the high-range areas in the ‘rebuild project’ since they bore the brunt of the floods.

The budget also has scheme for raising coconut production and earning a 20 per cent higher price, for which ₹70 crore is allocated. Another ₹100 crore will be made available from cooperative banks, local governments, and the Coir Department.

Rice parks having international standards will be set up in Palakkad, Thrissur and Alappuzha. The budget has earmarked ₹500 crore is earmarked for ensuing support price of rubber and promised to set register a company in the pubic-private partnership model for promoting value-added products.