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Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 21: The Kerala Government will seriously consider the demand of small-scale farmers to raise the ceiling on plantations used for activities other than growing listed crops from the present five per cent, Minister for Law, Industries and Coir P. Rajeeve said on Friday.

Rajeeve was responding to the concerns raised by small scale farmers in plantation sector that the allocated five percent land is insufficient and not profitable, at a meeting held here last evening.

Kerala, which accounted for 46 per cent of the total plantation area in the country, was the first state to establish a dedicated Plantation Directorate under the Department of Industries and Commerce (DI&C) and accord the sector industry status, setting in process a whole lot of initiatives to enhance production, augment revenue, promote value-addition and establish a Kerala brand in the global market, the Minister said.

Principal Secretary, Industries, A. P. M. Mohammed Hanish; Plantation Directorate Special Officer and Director of Industries & Commerce, S. Harikishore and Plantation Directorate Additional Director Dr K S Kripakumar were also present.

The Minister said the activities of the Plantation Directorate under the Department of Industries and Commerce (DI&C) could initiate changes in policies and implement various projects, besides finding solutions to the existing problems in the sector.

The Minister also said DI&C will reimburse the interest on the loans taken from banks by farmers for the renovation of their shelters in plantation sector.

If a plantation has 10 acres of land above the stipulated area for growing commercial crop, it will be given permission for setting up a fruit park, in a first in the country, with the DI&C providing a grant of Rs 3 crore for the infrastructure development of the park, he informed.

The Directorate of Plantation will be conducting workshops on farming of fruits in plantations in various sectors across the state. They can also be leveraged for farm tourism in an environmentally sustainable manner, Shri Rajeeve said.

The DI&C will provide financial aid for the modernisation of cultivation of plantation crops and optimisation of revenue.

Rajeeve said technical aid will also be provided for grading, packaging and branding of value-added products from plantation sector. Steps are being taken for creating ‘Kerala Brand’ of coconut oil, coffee and spices and present them on global arena.

Recently, DI&C has signed an MoU with the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (IIMK) for conduct of a comprehensive study on diversification and optimisation of revenue from plantations in Kerala. Also, World Bank-assisted projects in the sector are on track.

Commenting on the parks, Rajeeve said the new Spices Park at Thodupuzha has immense potential and the Carbon Neutral Park in Wayanad will start functioning soon apart from another proposed Coconut Park at Kuttiyadi.

The Minister informed that a plantation expo will be conducted on January 20, 2024 in Kochi.

The small-scale farmers also called for bringing fruits like rambutan, avocado and other varieties under the ambit of plantations and permitting more land for their cultivation.

Small scale farmers are facing difficulties for profitable farming and replant of plantation crops like tea, coffee, rubber and cardamom that come under Plantation Labour Act, they added.