Agri Business

Kerala voices concern over proposed dissolving of commodity boards

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on December 14, 2020

Will be detriment to the interests of farmers, says State Agriculture Minister

Kerala has taken strong exception to the proposed move to dissolve commodity boards, fearing it could have a long-term negative impact on the agriculture sector in the State.

“The PMO is learnt to have taken steps in this direction and we are expecting an order to this effect shortly”, said VS Sunil Kumar, State Agriculture Minister. “The move is in continuation with the recently introduced farm laws and could be viewed as part of the larger policy to drive privatisation”, he told BusinessLine.

The Minister said that the decision would hinder the State’s plans to formulate agriculture-related policies in consultation with concerned commodity boards such as the Coconut Development Board, the Spices Board and the Rubber Board and hit the prospects of several cash crops. Reduction in the budgetary allocations for commodity boards during the last three years only confirms the Centre’s thinking. This has in turn forced the boards to put off several developmental plans to the detriment interest of the farming community.

The Minister said that the move is a direct encroachment upon the State’s rights in agriculture and related activities which have been guaranteed under the 7th schedule of the Constitution.

The Minister’s concern assumes significance in the wake of the office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare dated September 29 on rationalisation of autonomous bodies and seeking specific comments on the matter. According to the office memorandum, the rationalisation is aimed at minimum government and maximum governance and ensuring economical, efficient use of public funds.

Performance of cash crop

P Indira Devi, former Director of Research, Kerala Agricultural University, said the commodity boards play a major role in the performance of cash crops. Cash crops such as rubber, black pepper, cardamom, tea and coffee together occupy a major proportion of the net cropped area in Kerala and the State is a leader in many of these crops. The welfare of small and marginal farmers will be at stake without the support and patronage of these boards, she added.

There is a growing concern among employees of these commodity boards that the emerging situation would affect their future, especially of the new generation employees. “Each board has its own expertise, workers have developed an affinity to it, and this will only get diluted if the merger happens”, said a source in one of the commodity boards.

PC Cyriac, former chariman of the Rubber Board, said that the merger, especially in rubber segment, will be a retrograde step that will impact the growth of the industry and economic activity in a particular region. He recalled that rubber farming has brought all economic prospects to Kerala during the last 70 years at a time when other crops had failed.

Another source added that the Spices Board had played a major role in developing small and large cardamom growing areas in Sikkim, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during the last four to five decades. These initiatives will go in vain once the Ministry decides to move ahead with the merger plans.

Published on December 14, 2020

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