Kerala Plantation Corporation diversifies aimlessly, only increases debt – The New Indian Express


Express news service

KASARAGOD: A group of workers affiliated with CPM and Congress quit their jobs and sat in protest outside the Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) office in Cheemeni in Kasaragod district for the third day on Sunday.

Their request: to bring back a Kasaragod dwarf cow and two calves that were transferred to PCK’s “high-tech” dairy farm in Ukkinadka in Badiadka panchayat. The Plantation Corporation of Kerala – which has been in the red for the past seven years – felt it was not safe to employ a worker with all the benefits to care for a single cow.

But the Cheemeni workers didn’t want it. They blocked the movement and on Friday the Plantation Corporation retaliated by suspending four workers. He then transferred the dwarf and his calves to the Ukkinadka farm under police protection. What is currently happening in Cheemeni is just a glimpse of the problems facing PCK, whose main income comes from rubber and cashew plantations.

PCK, headquartered in Kottayam and reporting to the Agriculture department, has been reporting losses since 2015-2016. But its decline began long before that. In 2013-2014 he reported a profit of Rs 27.97 crore. The following year, its profit plunged by a third to Rs 8.26 crore.

In 2015-2016, he reported a loss of Rs 14.25 crore. The loss widened to Rs 26.16 crore at the end of March 2020, according to the company’s provisional balance sheet. His liability is a staggering Rs 255 crore. “There was a time when PCK had a fixed deposit of Rs 175 crore. Today we are operating on a 16 crore overdraft from Canara Bank, ”said Managing Director J Sajeev.

The only success of PCK now is that it pays salaries to all of its employees on time. “The income we get is used to pay the interest on the overdraft,” Sajeev said. When rubber prices fell, PCK decided to branch out into other verticals such as dairy farm, quail farm, cashew soft drink, passion fruit squash and cultivation of rambutan. With the exception of the rambutan plantation, all businesses are bleeding the business.

“I don’t think the fall in rubber prices led to the CPK crisis. Individuals with only 100 rubber trees are doing well. It is mismanagement that is drowning PCK, ”said an official at the headquarters, who did not wish to be identified.

The dairy run by PCK in Ukkinadka in
Kasaragod.

Bleeding Dairy Company Plantation Corporation Rs 1.8L each month

The government of Oommen Chandy set up the highly mechanized dairy farm at a cost of Rs 6 crore at Ukkinadka in Kasaragod in February 2016. The farm – with room for 100 cows – has everything of a packing unit of milk, a milk cooling plant, grass cutter, feed mixer, milking machine and even an electric grooming brush to give the cows a good dogging and massage. The plan was to have 100 cows and get around 1000 liters of milk each day and sell the milk under PCK’s own brand.

In fact, the farm has 23 head of cattle, including calves. Among them, only 10 are dairy cows, said a worker. The 10 cows give 60 to 65 liters of milk each day. The milk is sold to the company Milma in Perla. At Rs 37 per liter, the farm earns around Rs 72,000 per month. But his monthly expenses amount to Rs 2.5 lakh, including Rs 1.5 lakh of salary for 12 workers, an electricity bill of around Rs 35,000 and Rs 45,000 for feeding the cattle.

An individual operates a 100-cow dairy farm next to the high-tech PCK farm with only five workers. Every month the PCK farm loses around Rs 1.80 lakh. General Manager Sajeev sighed helplessly when asked about the farm. In October 2020, PCK purchased technology developed by the University of Kerala to make a carbonated drink from cashew nuts. It was another attempt to diversify the business.

The factory to produce the drink was installed at Muliyar Estate. He named the product Occiana, after the scientific name of the Anacardium Occidental cashew nut. The plan was to produce 1,000 liters of Occiana each day and sell them in 300ml bottles for Rs 25 each. The project was included in the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and Rs 10 crore was sanctioned. Today, Muliyar’s godown is stacked with bottles of Occiana without takers.

The general manager said that the marketing of the product had failed because the commission offered to the distributor was only Rs 2 per bottle. PCK also dabbled in the production of passion fruit squash, growing the fruit in its estates of Muliyar, Perla, Adhur and Periya. After the first season, the passion for the product faded and the plants died. He closed his squash stores in Periya and Muleria. He also invested money in setting up a quail farm with 1,500 chicks. They were again housed in high tech pens (another expensive word). After the initial excitement, the birds began to die without care, and the quail project was quietly buried.

“PCK needs an overhaul”

PCK’s problems cannot be fixed in a year, the newly appointed chief executive said. He is betting on rubber to revive the fortunes of the company. “There is nothing wrong with diversifying, but they should be well managed,” he said. The major problem facing the company is high absenteeism among workers, he said. “We take action if workers do not show up for work for three consecutive days. So they always come on the third day, ”he said.

The frequency of tapping was reduced to once every four days. Thus, if a worker does not show up on a given day, his block of trees will not be notched until the eighth day. In addition, the rubber tree replanting schedule has been put to the test. “It will come to a point where there will be no more income,” the official said. About 70% of the trees have been replanted.

At least 25% must be replanted in the first year. “But the prerequisite for replanting is an appropriate fence to protect the saplings from attack by wild animals,” Sajeev said. It has three factories in Pathanamthitta district and in Kalady in Ernakulam district. “Periodic maintenance is long overdue. It can break down at any time, ”Sajeev said. He also called for the overhaul of the cashew nut marketing system. “But PCK is my extra load,” he said.

DELAYED GROWTH

Plantation Corporation has been reporting losses since 2015-2016. The major problem it faces is high absenteeism among workers. The rubber tree replanting schedule has also broken down

  • Having a fixed deposit of K175 crore, PCK is now operating on an overdraft of Rs 16 crore from Canara Bank
  • It has a liability of Rs 255 crore
  • In seven years in the red, PCK loss rose to Rs 26 crore in fiscal year 2020
  • The last time he declared a profit was in FY2014 – Rs 28 crore
  • He ventured into several new ventures and burned millions of public money
  • It does not maintain its core business of rubber plantation or its factories


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