The United Planters’ Association of South India (Upasi) has stressed the need to incentivise exports by way of increasing the rates to five per cent for plantation commodities and 7 per cent for value-added commodities.

The present RoDTEP rates for tea at 1.7 per cent, coffee at 1.4 per cent, pepper at 1 per cent and cardamom at 1 per cent are not attractive to nudge exports, said Jeffry Rebello, President, Upasi, at the 130th annual conference.

The plantation sector exports are at a “competitive disadvantage” compared to other export origins due to infrastructure inefficiencies and other associated costs. The sector operates with very thin margins and needs continuous support by way of export incentives, infrastructure development and other incentives to make exports competitive, he said.

The value of plantation commodities produced in 2022-23 was estimated to be at ₹54,420 crore at the farm level accounting for 1.9 per cent of agricultural GDP with an export realisation at ₹16,133 crore. The value of plantation exports to agriculture exports were at 7.7 per cent.

He noted that climate change has strong direct and indirect effect in carrying out agricultural operations and hampers crop production due to delay in monsoon, deficit monsoons, unexpected heavy downpour, a smaller number of rain days and so on.

Orthodox teas

Referring to tea, the Upasi president said global demand is skewed in favour of Orthodox tea which is more expensive to produce. The cost differential to produce CTC and orthodox is estimated to be ₹26/kg. This necessitates that the Orthodox production incentive scheme be reintroduced. An increase in orthodox production will reduce the oversupply of CTC teas in the domestic market thereby improving the price of CTC and green leaf for small growers.

According to him, there is a massive scope for value-addition as coffee is perceived as an affordable luxury in the minds of consumers. Consumption is growing globally with maximum growth at the premium end.  Given that 70 per cent of the coffee produced here consists of high quality Robusta & Arabica, India’s market share in core markets of Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe needs to be safeguarded.

On natural rubber, Rebello voiced concern that the hike in import duty would apply only to the Most Favoured Nations and may not apply to the countries with India have entered into Free Trade Agreements. “We have requested Government fixing MIP for Compound Rubber; import duty concession for Compound Rubber given under ASEAN agreement be revisited and Rubber Board should be authorised to issue No objection Certificates on every consignment of compound rubber imported.”