South India planters upbeat on growth prospects

October 21st, 2011 - 8:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Coonoor (Tamil Nadu), Oct 21 (IANS) Barring tea, planters of coffee, rubber and spices have reason to celebrate ahead of Diwali as they never had it so good on all fronts to be upbeat on growth prospects.

“Planters, including small and medium growers in coffee, rubber and spices (pepper and cardamom) hope to sustain the momentum, riding on a turnaround in production, sales, exports and better realisation,” a representative of the sector told IANS here Friday, the eve of their annual conference here.

In contrast, tea planters faced a tough year as production, exports and value slumped due to cyclical factors and intense competition from Kenya and Sri Lanka in the overseas markets.

“Though tea production is likely to recover this fiscal (2011-12), depleting inventory level, crop shortfall in Kenya and surge in domestic consumption will keep prices marginally higher than last fiscal (2010-11),” United Planters’ Association of Southern India (Upasi) commodities’ head Rajan Sanjith said.

Unlike in the recent past, commodity planters are not whining about the various policy, regulatory and taxation issues confronting the sector, as it is time to party after years of fluctuating fortunes.

“We are in no mood to complain or air our grievances as the year gone by had been so good and outlook for this fiscal equally bright, thanks to all-round demand and increasing consumption of our commodities in the domestic and export markets at competitive prices,” coffee planter from Karnataka S. Baliappa told IANS.

Notwithstanding five weeks delay in holding the 118th annual conference-cum-expo this year for want of a central minister to inaugurate it, about 600 of the 800-strong Upasi members will assemble atop the blue mountains (Nilgiris) Saturday for the two-day brain-storming sessions and workshop on various topics pertaining to the sector.

“For the first time, the over century-old association has been forced to postpone its annual meet from September second week to this weekend due to non-availability of a VIP (central minister) to preside over the conference and take stock of the plantation sector last month,” a member said on anonymity.

Instead of Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma or his deputy Jyotiraditya Scindia, under whose ministry the plantation commodities boards function, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge will inaugurate the conference and address the planters.

“The main conference Sunday will be preceded by commodity outlook session where the chairmen of tea, coffee, rubber and spices boards will give an overall view, while experts will present papers in the technical sessions Saturday,” Upasi president C.N. Nataraj said.

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