21/03/2008 (The Hindu Business Line), Thiruvananthapuram - The Centre's decision to slash the import duty on edible oils including palm oil is likely to hit thousands of coconut farmers in Kerala, already reeling under the impact of steady price fall over the years.
The reduction in duty has become "all the more severe" as it coincided with ban on restrictions on import of coconut oil. Demanding immediate withdrawal of the decision, the Chief Minister Mr V S Achuthanandan said the duty on edible oil had been brought down from 89.4 per cent in July 2006 to as low as 20 per cent in two years.
In a statement, he said this exposed the UPA Government's claim of being farmer-friendly highlighting the loan-waiver proposal in its latest budget. In reality, the government is pushing policies strengthening globalisation that would put farmers into a deeper debt trap, he said.
The LDF Government and farmers unions wanted the decision to be withdrawn, saying it would badly hit 3.1 million farmers in the state, most of them small and marginal holders.
The government says the cut in import duty on unrefined palmoil from 45 per cent to 20 per cent and that of refined oil from 52 per cent to 27.5 per cent would lead to flooding of palmoil into Indian market that would have drastic fallout on the price of coconut oil. "The decision is not going to hit coconut farmers alone but also cultivators of other oil seeds like soya bean and sun-flower," said the pro-CPI farmer's union leader Mr Satyan Mokeri. - PTI