A cup of cheer: Rs 100 cr Special Purpose Tea Fund

Updated: Mar 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
The allocation of Rs 100 crore towards the Special Purpose Tea Fund under the Rs 4,400-crore replantation and rejuvenation programme has been welcomed by the United Planters Association of South India (Upasi).

The programme to be spread over 15 years was announced last year. The association had expressed its opposition to certain conditionalities in the programme like routing 80% of the produce through the auction route. Association president EB Sethna said details of the package terms were yet to be known. He welcomed the reduction of interest rate on farm loans and hoped it would be extended to the plantation sector too.

He said certain issues did not find mention in the Budget. Among them were the setting up a plantation stabilisation fund, exclusion of plantations from the ambit of cash withdrawal tax, abolition of FBT, extension of time to coffee growers who could not avail of the relief package, extension for concessional import tariff to certain machineries and clarification of education cess not being applicable to tea cess. However, he hoped that these plantation-specific issues would be addressed separately.

The government was seized of the problems affecting the tea industry in the past few years due to unremunerative prices on account of thesupply-demand mismatch, increasing cost of production, fall in export realisation etc., and had been recounting the steps taken to tide over the situation.

Meanhile the fisheries sector should get the necessary focus with the proposal to set up a national fisheries board, according to Seafood Exporters Association of India national president AJ Tharakan.

MIXED BAG

Details of the SPTF terms yet to be known
Reduction of interest rate on farm loans expected to be extended to the plantation sector too
National Fisheries Board may be able to look into several vital issues like aquaculture, deep sea fishing, coastal regulations,
scientific research, etc

This had been a long-pending demand of the marine sector which was under the control of several ministries like agriculture, commerce and food-processing and often did not get the necessary boost in the midst of agriculture, animal husbandary, etc. The board was constituted based on the recommendations of the committee constituted by the Centre on January 1, 2003.

This apex body on the lines of the National Dairy Development Board could now look into several vital issues like aquaculture, deep sea fishing, coastal regulations, scientific research, etc. The Marine Products Export Development Authority (Mpeda) would continue to focus on exports.

However, the board would have to give fair representation to all stakeholders in the industry, Mr Tharakan said, including fishermen bodies, scientific fisheries institutes and research institutions.