The United Planters Association of South India (UPASI), the apex trade body, has urged the Southern States —Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka — to amend their land reforms acts, a move that will help growers of with crop diversification.

UPASI President, MP Cherian, addressing the 129 th annual conference of the trade body, said amidst changing market dynamics and policy regimes, growers have been working to diversify plantation land use through agroforestry and polyculture practices. However, the land laws in effect today prevent us from growing crops that are not listed as plantation crop as per the Land Reforms Act, he said.

“Land being a state subject, the governments of Southern States must amend their land reforms act to meet current and future needs and expand its scope to include high demand crops,” Cherian said.

Multiple challenges

Growers of plantation crops such as tea and coffee are facing multiple challenges such as rising costs, volatile price trends and changing climate impacting their production. “A favourable favourable public policy that will permit agroforestry in plantations can become key component in mitigating the effects of climate change while producing a substantial set of co-benefits. Agroforestry will contribute significantly to increasing land productivity and income from timber and non-timber crops while bolstering the biodiversity of the lands under our care and strengthening the resilience of our ecosytem,” Cherian said.

“If we are able to successfully move from monoculture practices to polyculture that integrates precision farming techniques, we can cash in on rising demands while increasing our revenue per unit area. This in turn will also help mitigate the harmful effects of drought and excess precipitation,” he said.

Further, Cherian stressed upon the need to increase the South Indian tea exports, which have dropped from 50 per cent of its production to 35 per cent on account of an increase in the manufacture of CTC teas. He also urged the Tamil Nadu government to look at incentivising the small and large growers of orthodox and speciality tea, on the lines of Assam Govt which is providing an incentive of ₹10 per kg for such producers. A study by the Indian Institute of Plantation Management estimates the cost differential between CTC and orthodox teas at ₹26 per kg. This necessitates that the orthodox production incentive scheme be re-introduced since the production of orthodox teas entail a higher cost, he added.

TN to look into demands

Tamil Nadu Minister for Finance, Planning and Human Resources Management, Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, said the demands of the plantation sector would be looked into and that the government was working towards a beneficiary centric approach to make the targetted subsidies and incentives work. He also stressed upon the need for better data to understand the sector.

Joseph Avraham, Consul for Trade and Economic Affairs of Israel in Bengaluru, highlighted the progress made by the Israeli companies in the areas of water management and agriculture among others.

UPASI, Cherian said, has been highlighting the need for Indian coffee to be made into a brand to create a regulatory landscape within India and abroad. This would help reap long-term competitive advantages as a uniquely branded commodity. He stated that India is poised to see a huge deficit of natural rubber as over a third of holdings are over 25 years amidst a sluggish pace of replanting,

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