The minister for Commerce & Industry held a detailed interaction with coffee growers, roasters, exporters, and other stakeholders at Coffee Board Head Office, Bengaluru. The important outcomes of the meeting were as follows:
Simplification of Coffee Act
The present Coffee Act was enacted in 1942, and it has many provisions which have become redundant and are impediments to the coffee trade. Therefore, it was decided in the meeting to completely relook at the provisions of the act and remove the restrictive and regulatory provisions in nature to bring out a simple act that suits the present needs of the coffee sector and facilitates its growth.
The coffee growers expressed concerns about losing their lands given the notices issued by the banks under SARFAESI Act. After detailed interaction, the hon’ble minister assured the grower fraternity that the issue would be favorably discussed with other related ministries and a suitable solution would be found early.
Increased assistance under Transport and Marketing Assistance Scheme (TMA)
Several exporters have raised concern that the Indian agri-exports to several destinations have become uncompetitive due to increased international freight rates. If the Government does not handhold the agri-exporters with increased assistance under Transport and Marketing Assistance Scheme (TMA), India may lose many markets for agri exports forever to other competing origins. The hon’ble minister assured the exporters that a special package to assist agri-exports for at least one year would be considered under the TMA Scheme to tide over the present crisis.
Issue of coffee
White Stem Borer: The minister, after understanding the seriousness of the damage caused by White Stem Borer pest in coffee from the coffee growers and also because the Research Wing under Coffee Board has limited resources, assured the growers that a request would be made to Agriculture Department and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to initiate advanced research on Coffee White Stem Borer.
Special package for restructuring of coffee loans and Interest subvention
In the meeting, the Chairman Coffee Board requested the minister to announce the restructuring of all existing loans into a single term loan with a long repayment period and extend fresh working capital with soft interest.
The minister expressed his solidarity with the coffee growers in this period of distress and assured to work an out feasible package in discussion with the concerned ministries.
Strengthening the extension activities of Coffee Board
The minister has directed Coffee Board to develop a dashboard for real-time updation of extension activities, including field visits, workshops, demonstrations, seminars, etc., to be undertaken by the extension personnel in the farmers’ fields and monitor the same effectively.
In the meeting, the minister emphatically dispelled the apprehensions of the stakeholders and assured them that the Government of India did not have any intention to close the Coffee Board. However, to provide better services to the coffee growers, especially small growers, it is proposed to shift the Coffee Board from the ministry of Commerce to the Ministry of Agriculture. This will ensure that the benefits of all the schemes of agriculture are extended to the coffee growers.
Overall, all the coffee stakeholders expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the minister for Commerce & Industry for responding to their issues compassionately.
They also assured the minister that they would all join hands together to scale up the production of coffee, exports and work towards increasing the returns to the coffee growers.