Centre's new proposal failsto impress areca growers

By TheHindu on 13 Mar 2017 | read
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The government under the National Horticulture Mission scheme has proposed to provide financial assistance to arecanut growers whose plantations have been hit by yellow leaf disease (YLD).

The assistance is for cutting the disease-hit palms, removing them and planting new arecanut saplings.

But some of the affected growers who spoke to The Hindu on Friday said that the proposal would be a futile exercise. The farmers in Sullia taluk in Dakshina Kannada had tried it more than a decade ago but had seen disease hitting new saplings within four years.

K. B. Dhundi, Joint Director (plantation crops), Department of Horticulture, Bangalore told The Hindu on Friday over phone that the details of the proposal would be announced in a fortnight.

An official of the department here said the proposal had taken shape on the basis of a report submitted to the State government by a six-member Union government committee in August last.

The committee headed by Gorakh Singh, Horticulture Commissioner, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Union Ministry of Agriculture had prepared the report after visiting Sringeri and Koppa taluks in Chikmagalur district and Thirthahalli taluk in Shimoga district to study problems of arecanut growers in Western Ghats region last year.

The report, a copy of which is with The Hindu, had worked out the compensation for cutting 50 palms per hectare and replanting new saplings at Rs. 24,500 per hectare. The report said: “However, under the NHM scheme, the admissible assistance is at the rate of Rs. 15,000 per hectare i.e., fifty per cent of cost required for the better management and full cost for cut and removal and replanting. The balance amount required is to be borne by the farmer through credit realisation.”

Farmer's grouse

An affected grower K. Vasanth Rao of Todikana, Sullia Taluk told The Hindu that he had repeated cutting and replanting exercise thrice in his plantation. The disease had hit new palms in the third year each time.

Mr. Rao, who is an agriculture science graduate, said that the farmers had been repeatedly telling the government that there was no permanent cure for the disease and that the YLD spread to new palms. Farmers were looking for financial assistance for growing alternative crops which would help farmers in the long run.

Mr. Rao said that one hectare of arecanut plantation had 1,000 to 1,200 palms. In a scenario where farmers remove only 50 palms and replace them with new saplings he wondered whether the new ones would not get the disease from other disease-hit palms in the plantation.

Step ahead

Balachandra Kalagi, president, Kodagu Sampaje Gram Panchayat, had gone a step ahead and planted 150 saplings after replacing the old soil with fresh soil in 2003. The YLD hit new palms in the fourth year.

Mr. Kalagi said that different varieties of arecanut were planted replacing stricken ones in his neighbour's plantation. They also had succumbed to the disease.

Jagadeesh K.P., president, Dakshina Kannada Sampaje Gram Panchayat, said that he planted 125 saplings in 2009 in place of the disease-hit palms.

Now some of them were showing the symptoms of the disease. Farmers needed assistance for growing alternative crops, he said.

It may be recalled that George V Thomas, Director of the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kasaragod, Kerala, while speaking to The Hindu this April had admitted that there was no permanent cure for the disease.

Raviprasad Kamila