As uniform re plantation subsidy, provided by various commodity boards, is yet to push up the production of major crops like rubber, pepper, cardamom and other spices, a study done by National Research Programme in Plantation Development (NRPPD) has advocated performance-based supplementary subsidy, along with a base subsidy to all, based on the planting area.
We examined the key question whether the system of innovation and production evolved to build international competitiveness been fostering inclusive growth, says KJ Joseph, Associate Fellow, Centre for Development Studies, who is leading the NRPPD study.
Exclusion is institutionalized even to the extent of large growers driving the main commodity boards, says the study.
For instance, Rubber Board has four members representing large growers. They account of only 10% of the area and 7% of total production, while relatively more efficient small growers, who account for 90% of area and 93% of production, are represented only by three members. North east states are hailed as sunrise segment in rubber, commanding 5% of total area.
But this expanding rubber belt is not represented on the Board. Equally in-equal is the decision-making on Spices Board.
The Board, with mandate to deal with 52 crops, has 32 members. Out of these only seven represent growers' interest. The NRPPD study points out that most of the crops remain excluded from the Board's decision-making. Besides, those representing the growers' interests are mostly the large holders in cardamom.
Joseph argues that since the farm size-productivity relation appears to be inverse, and the revenue for the subsidy is obtained from the cess (tax) collected on the basis of output, at present, the inefficient growers are subsidized by the more efficient small holders. It is at this point that he prescribes performance-based supplementary subsidy to top the base subsidy.
The new plantation sector study also lauds the role of e-auctions, that Spices Board has initiated in price discovery and inclusivity in cardamom marketing.
However, small-holding cardamom growers still face some entry barriers, says Joseph. The NRPPD study is most caustic on the R&D aggregate by plantation research institutes, dubbing their performance sub-optimal. While in rubber, Rubber Research Institute of India was able to take the productivity of natural rubber in the country to the world's highest level, the cardamom variety that brought record yield levels ( as high as 600-700 kg per hectare) was developed by a small-holding cardamom grower and not the spice researchers.