KOCHI: In a classic case of red-tapism in the higher echelons of state bureaucracy, Harrisons Malayalam Limited (HML) claims its 1,000 hectares of rubber plantations are remaining unproductive for the past five years resulting in a cumulative loss of over Rs 100 crores over 13 lakh MT of Natural Rubber production lost. The company also lost 10 lakh working days for its employees.
HML CEO and director Venkitraman Anand says the delay in the withdrawal of directions with respect to restriction on tree felling issued by the 'special officer' years ago has resulted in vast swathes of land with plantations due for slaughter and replanting remaining untouched. "One-sixth of our NR plantations or 2.5 lakh trees are left idle, disrupting the plantation cycle where 3 to 4 per cent of the total area should be replanted to maintain high levels of productivity. This is further causing a demand for employment dropping," said Anand.
The Supreme Court had upheld the Kerala High Court's verdict rendering the special officers' orders invalid in September 2018. The returns from timber extracted per hectare are around Rs 4 lakh, whereas replantation per hectare cost an estimated Rs 6 lakh as rubber crop has a gestation period of 6-7 years.
With the cost of production being the highest in Kerala, Association of Planters Kerala secretary Ajith BK says the government should provide growers with replantation subsides, permission for inter, multi and stand-alone cropping, minimum support price and definite plans for soil and water conservation. "As a welcome move, the government has abolished the Rs 2,500 per cubic metre as seigniorage for rubber plantation, the plantation and agriculture income tax, recently," said Ajith.
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