White-stem borer still rules, rues Sarin

White-stem borer still rules, rues Sarin

White-stem borer still rules, rues Sarin

 Over the years, planters in India have been forced to switch over from Arabica to Robusta due to white-stem borer disease. Yet the solution to the borer menace eludes us, a top company executive said on Thursday.

Addressing the Karnataka Planters Association’s 57th annual conference here in Bengaluru, Tata Coffee Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Sarin said, “A collective approach is so critical — while individual planters need to focus on tracing and uprooting, the Coffee Board needs to push R&D (research and development) to develop solutions. At least at Tata Coffee, we are seeing some light as we work very closely with the research centres of Tata Chemicals and Rallis in this area to develop solutions.”

He stressed on other areas where the government has to take immediate steps. The estates are impacted by continuous power shortages, forcing planters to generate captive power. This increases the cost and there is an additional levy of ‘Consumption and Generation Tax’ which creates an incremental burden, Sarin said.

On replanting, Sarin said, “Replanting is so critical for the survival of the industry. While replanting fetches  government subsidies, infilling does not.”

He noted that in the 12th five year plan (2012-17), Rs 930 crore has been allocated towards extension, R&D, mechanisation. “Only about Rs 120 crore has been spent so far. We need to realise that internationally, countries are working tirelessly to transform their plantations through researched strains, like in Columbia.

“Without new strains, pest management, mechanisation, the industry will find it difficult to be cost-efficient or generate high revenue and compete.”

He also spoke about sustaining profitability. Internationally, coffee terminals are currently 25 per cent lower for Arabica and 13 per cent lower for Robusta since the start of this calendar year, Sarin added.

He added, “The Universal Account Number (UAN) activation by the EPFO is a welcome step. However, the mandatory linking with the workers’ mobile phone number puts a block in this development, especially when most seasonal workers do not carry a mobile phone. And our industry is so dependant on seasonal workers.”