Kochi, Dec 8 (UNI) The Central Government today announced a Rs 122 crore package for the next five years for replantation and rejuvenation of cardamom plantations in the country, which in a large measure will benefit Kerala.
Talking to newspersons here, Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said, of the total package Rs 58 crore would be spent in rejuvination of plantation in Kerala.
Mr Ramesh said the total area to be replanted would be 28,000 hectares, of which, 10,000 hectares would be in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and 18,000 in Karnataka. Another 15,000 hectares of cardamom plantations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu would be rejuvenated, he added.
Talking of the first cardamom e-auction centre in Kerala at Vandanmedu in Idukki district, which he inaugruated today, Mr Ramesh said the Centre had been set up at a cost of Rs 55 lakh.
Sixty terminals had been provided and the software had been developed by the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Five manual auction centres, which were functioning earlier, had been integrated into the e-auction Centre.
Stating that the country's first cardamom e-auction centre, set up at Bodhinayakannur in Tamil Nadu on August 23 this year, had been ''very successful'', the minister said the average price got by the farmers had gone up to Rs 421 per kg, as against Rs 297 per kg last year.
Mr Ramesh said the Centre had also approved a Rs 30 crore package, sought by the Kerala Government, to carry out replantation in 20,000 hectares of pepper plantation in the State.
On the ongoing discussions with the ASEAN for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the minister said this was expected to be finalised by March, 2008. There was no move to reduce import duty on cardamom, rubber, cashew and coconut as part of the FTA, he added.
He said the duty on pepper, which was 70 per cent at the moment and on coffee, which was 100 per cent, would be brought down to 50 per cent by 2018.