Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday said a joint task force set up by the Commerce Ministry and Karnataka government will address the concerns of the southern state's flood-hit coffee growers.
"I have spoken to the Chief Minister (HD Kumaraswamy) and we have decided to set up a task force along with the Karnataka government to deal with the issues being faced by the coffee planters as a result of the recent floods," Prabhu told a coffee planters' gathering here through a video address from New Delhi.
The Minister was addressing the 60th anniversary of Karnataka Planters' Association (KPA), the apex decision-making body in the state for coffee, tea, rubber, pepper and cardamom plantations.
Due to the heavy rains and floods in the coffee-growing districts of Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan in August, the loss and damage caused to coffee estates, coffee crop and infrastructure is estimated to be Rs 3,000-crore, according to the KPA.
The Commerce Ministry will do everything to ensure the planters' issues are addressed, Prabhu said.
With about 45,000 growers producing 40% of India's coffee, Kodagu contributes a major quantity of the aromatic beverage. With its adjacent districts - Chikkamagaluru and Hassan -- the region in the southern state's Western Ghats accounts for 70% of the country's bean production.
As many as 20,000 of the growers in Kodagu have lost about 70% of their crop due to the recent floods.
With 3.43 lakh coffee growers in the southern state facing pending loans cumulatively amounting up to Rs 6,000-crore, the KPA and the Coffee Board have been seeking interest waiver from the Ministry on the loans. The waiver was sought due to the heavy loss incurred by coffee planters in their plantations in Kodagu district.
Coffee seeds, which mature in December,have already dropped in many plantations due to the rains. In some areas, stretches of coffee plantations have been washed away. According to local coffee planters, it will take at least eight years for coffee to be grown from scratch.