New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath today called for replantation and rejuvenation of plantation crops in the country for the benefit of growers, workers and other stakeholders.
Describing plantation sector an important component of country's agrarian economy for its contribution to GDP, export potential and employment generation as the sector employs about 20 million people, he said 15 per cent of the country's agricultural export earnings comes from crops like tea, coffee and rubber.
Addressing a meeting of the Chairmen of the Commodity Boards and stakeholders of plantation sectors here, the Minister said a Rs 4,761 crore Special Purpose Tea Fund has already been set up in January for replanting and rejuvenating tea plantations.
The fund is aimed at improving the age-profile of tea plantations in an area of 2.12 lakh hectares over a period of 15 years.
A rehabilitation package had also been announced for providing financial assistance to the closed tea gardens earlier this year, he said, adding of the 33 closed gardens, nine have already reopened.
Mr Nath said a modern labortary has been set up at Cochin to improve the quality of spices with a view to meeting the requirements of importing countries. Similar laboratories are being set up at Guntur, Delhi and Mumbai, he added.
He said the government has also decided to set up spices parks at Idduki, Guntur, Rai Bareili, Erode, Kota and Chhindwara for scientific processing and value-addition and to enhance quality standards of spices.
These parks will have common infrastructure facilities for cleaning, washing, sterilisation, packaging and warehousing to provide high-end value-addition, processing, training on good agricultural practices and quality requirements to farmers, traders, processors and exporters.
The Minister agreed to look at the possibility of having a special risk policy for tobacco exports through Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India and having a specialised institute for spices technology for coordinated research and market intelligence.