Focusing on crop diversification, Kerala’s plantation sector expects turnover of 30,000 crore in 5 years
Kerala’s plantation sector is focused on improving the value of its products to 30,000 crore with job creation of five lakh over the next five years.
“The task is difficult, but not impossible to achieve, especially with the support of the government of Kerala. Diversifying income sources should be the top priority to achieve this goal, ”said SB Prabhakar, president of the Kerala Planters Association (APK).
The measures cited by APK to increase income come from current plantation crops, regenerative agroforestry and forestry, growing tropical fruits, vegetables, related livestock and value-added activities, responsible ecotourism initiatives and renewable energy production.
With a turnover of 30,000 crore and an additional 50% through added value, the APK chairman said the total value of the products would be around 45,000 crore. If the five percent GST is applied, the direct contribution to the public treasury by the plantation sector will be 2,750 crore per year. In addition, with the creation of jobs and additional spending, GST revenues will also increase indirectly.
The value of plantation crops in 2020-2021 was 10,574 crore compared to 21,000 crore in 2012-13. The decline in value was mainly due to falling commodity prices around this time and the adverse effects of climate change that had hampered production, he said.
According to Prabhakar, the unique income stream of monoculture has had its day since the advent of the market economy. With a wide range of agro-climatic zones, Kerala has the potential to cultivate the majority of the crops that are grown elsewhere in the country.
Citing the report from the Agricultural University of Kerala on what crops can be grown in the region, Prabhakar asked for political support and government permission to implement it quickly.
“We can increase our income per acre to around ₹ 5-6 lakh per acre by adopting fruit crops with precision agriculture and drip irrigation facilities,” he added.
The state government should formulate a regenerative agroforestry policy that provides incentives to producers and a participatory approach of all stakeholders. Agroforestry should be seigniorage-free to motivate producers to adopt the same, he said.
The plantation sector has not been able to exploit the real tourism potential so far despite the representation of a plantation image in tourist brochures on the land of God. “If properly maintained, responsible ecotourism can be a game-changer for the plantation industry,” he added.