Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday assured growers that she would address the coffee sector’s problems.“I know the coffee sector has been going through a bad phase for several years in succession,” she said. “The sector suffered three years of drought, followed by two years of floods and this year, the pandemic hit the industry badly,” she said during a virtual conference organised by coffee associations.The associations highlighted the severe financial distress in the industry due to heavy rainfall, floods and landslides during the years 2018 and 2019. Due to this, production was down more than 35% in 2018-19 and by 50% in 2019-20. In some areas, the losses were up to 70%, they lamented. Earlier, the drought and dry weather during three successive years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 due to the failure of South West monsoons had affected the plantations, they said. “To add to that, the pandemic hit us, disrupting almost all activities in the coffee industry ranging from plantation activities, curing, trading, and export operations. It also kept almost all labourers away. Without some proper support from the Union government, the industry won’t recover,’’ said Coffee Board chairman Boje Gowda. According to Shirish Vijayendra, chairman, Karnataka Planters’ Association, the industry has sought an urgent relief package from the government to help it recover from the damage caused by floods, and losses suffered due to a steep rise in input, wages and social costs.“Such a scenario has pushed up the cost of production which is currently much beyond the sales realisations. The strong rupee and excessive production worldwide have led to very low prices, equivalent to the prices prevailing in the past decade. To tide over this situation, we have been asking the government for interest waivers, restructuring of existing loans and fresh loans at low interest among many other measures,’’ said Mr. Vijayendra.
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