Bitter taste: Commerce Minister flays Coffee Board

Says issues concerning quality and pest attack are paramount

Bitter taste: Commerce Minister flays Coffee Board

Launching a scathing attack on the inefficiency of the Coffee Board, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday expressed disappointment over the organisation’s failure to make coffee sector to tackle its receding quality, growing pest menace and receding export share.

“I am thoroughly unhappy that the Board remains where they are. I would have expected as much robustness in the Board as the sector. Sorry for being so blunt,” Sitharaman said in an interactive meeting with the Board members as well the stakeholders of the coffee industry here.

If growers and exporters are doing their bit to enhance this sector’s growth, the Board cannot be sitting doing nothing, the Minister said and directed the Board to improve its performance. Sitharaman said that she is being blunt so that the Board becomes robust.
“Everything that is being said is in order that the Board becomes robust to help growers and address issues which are going to affect all of us. The coffee (sector) cannot suffer,”she said.

Besides exploring newer export markets and expanding coffee culture, she wanted the board to address issues related to concerns about quality of coffee and white borer pest need to be addressed. Assuring full support to the Board in addressing the concerns of the sector, the Minister said: “It is not that I am absolving myself of my responsibility but I am here to say the Board, please sit up.”

She also discussed issues pertaining to transfer of technology for coffee harvesting and pulping instruments, amendment to Coffee Act, weather insurance for coffee growers and generic promotion of coffee among others.

“Planters, especially small growers, are facing acute shortage of labourers and they are in need of machineries. But, to facilitate small planters, there is a need to transfer technology so that the machineries could be made indigenously. The commerce ministry will soon facilitate transfer of technology,” she said.

Taking quick decisions on the spot on some of the urgent concerns, Sitharaman directed the ministry officials and Coffee Board to immediately form a small group with members drawn from the coffee growing areas to understand white stem borer pest menace on Arabica plantations and come out with solutions.

“Coffee growers and planters have raised issues regarding insurance payout. They are giving lot of premium to insure themselves against adverse circumstances. But in doing so, they don’t actually get any benefit during crisis due to tough terms and conditions of insurance companies. I have instructed the ministry to arrange a meeting with the insurance companies along with representatives of coffee growers,” Sitharaman said.
She also stressed on the need to come out with quality production of coffee seeds and promotion of coffee both internationally and domestic market.

Speaking on the occasion, Karnataka Home Minister K J George stated that the government will not evict coffee growers up to 10 acres of encroachment inside the Western Ghats.

“The chief minister has instructed deputy commissioners of all the districts, where coffee is grown and strict guidelines have been issued not to evict coffee farmers up to 10 acres,” he said. He, however, said the government could not issue a written order in this regard due to a court judgment in this matter.

India has exported 2.35 lakh tonnes of coffee till September 17 of the current calendar year, slightly lower than 2.45 tonnes in the year-ago, as per the Board data.
According to the post blossom crop forecast, the country is estimated to harvest 3.44 lakh tonnes of coffee in the 2014-15 crop year starting this month, up by 13.22 per cent from the last year's 3.04 lakh tonnes.

Meanwhile an official statement said Sitharaman launched ‘e-permit’, a website on e-governance initiatives of Coffee Board in Bangalore. The website was launched on the sidelines of the interaction meeting with the stakeholders of coffee industry organized by Coffee Board.

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