Thursday, 19 February 2015

‘Need starch units to help tapioca farmers’

: Crash in prices of tapioca has prompted experts on the root crop to call for revival of starch units in the State, even on cottage industry-scale, to impart stability to the market and steady returns to the farmers.
Tapioca prices in Ernakulam averaged just Rs. 19.79 a kg in January 2015, a dip from Rs. 26.90 a kg during January 2014, show figures from Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council.
The price of tapioca fell across the State by nearly 26 per cent from Rs. 25.07 a kg in February last year to Rs. 18.50 in January this year, say figures from the Department of Economics and Statistics. James George of Central Tuber Crops Research Institute, who heads the All India Coordinated Research Project on Tuber Crops, says that the tapioca has taken cyclical hits and only the establishment of starch units can help the farmers realise better prices in times of distress.
A scientist at Kerala Agricultural University says that diversification from being only a food crop is the way out of the cyclical price fall for tapioca farmers.
Dr. George attributed the current price trend to a glut in the market as farmers increased acreage under the crop on account of attractive prices during the early parts of last year.
He said that there are no starch units in Kerala though unlike in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu’s Salem district alone has 1,000 registered starch extraction units.
Bulk of India’s starch needs for industries like textiles and pharmaceuticals is met by suppliers from the districts of Salem, Namakkal and Dharmapuri, he added.
Unlike in Tamil Nadu, almost the entire quantity of tapioca produced in Kerala is used as food. Kerala has around 74,000 hectares under tapioca and the State produces a little more than 25 lakh tonnes of the tuber.
Officials in the Department of Agriculture here confirmed that early last year farmers tended to bring more areas under tapioca, especially in the district’s eastern belt where there is only one rice crop during the Mundakan season.
However, the same set of farmers is now hesitant to increase acreage under tapioca this year because of the market situation.
The price of tapioca fell by nearly 26 per cent from Rs. 25.07 a kg in February last year to
Rs. 18.50 in January this year.


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