Agri Business

Plantation product processing zones along ‘Make In India’ lines mooted

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on January 20, 2018

There is an urgent need to initiate long-term measures to evolve an internationally competitive plantation sector in the country ensuring shared prosperity.

This has to be complemented with short-term measures to bail out the growers from the current crisis, according to consensus emerging from a stakeholder consultation held here.

The event was hosted by think-tank Centre for Development Studies and organised by the National Research Programme on Plantation Development (NRPPD) sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce.

KJ Joseph, Ministry of Commerce Chair, CDS, moderated the session, which was attended by representatives from various plantations from the southern states.

Revamping R&D

While discussing long-term measures, the session recalled that studies by NRPPD have highlighted the limitations of the current R&D system under the commodity boards and planters’ associations.

There is an urgent need to explore ways to restructure and revamp the present R&D, extension and innovation system in order that it attracts the best brains while being more responsive and accountable.

Perhaps, the most debilitating structural infirmity of the sector is that it operates at the low end of the value chain without any role in the governance of such chains.

This calls for bringing together all planters’ associations representing both large and small growers, wherein the Ministry of Commerce and the State Governments concerned have an important role.

‘Make in India’

It may be appropriate to establish plantation product processing zones by harnessing the ‘Make In India’ programme focusing on specific crops at the instance of the Centre and State governments.

Producer companies shall be formed at the instance of planters’ associations with shareholding from both large and small growers along with foreign collaboration and commensurate role for state governments.

While stressing the need to exploit the potential of regional cooperation and FTAs, the meeting recalled that the ASEAN Vision 2020 had envisaged the establishment of ASEAN India Commodity Boards for better supply management to address the violent fluctuations in their prices.

The signing of FTA without implementing this provision has led to wasteful competition between growers in these countries instead of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Commodity boards

The meeting also felt that the commodity boards need to be more professionally managed, and accountable and responsive to the requirements of the plantation sector.

A high-power committee may be appointed to explore the relevance of these boards as they exist today and suggest appropriate changes to serve the interest of all stakeholders.

Given the acute labour shortage along with rising wages, there appears to be hardly any option other than mechanising all possible activities.

Claiming of carbon credits, ensuring good title deeds for land, and strengthening database were other issues flagged during the consultative session.

Published on February 25, 2016

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