Thiruvananthapuram: Following farmer suicides in Kerala amid recovery notices being issued to them in the aftermath of the century's worst flood last year, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday announced fresh sops for farmers, including a moratorium on repayment of loans that will be extended till December 31.
Aiming to aid the distressed Kerala agriculture sector that faced huge losses especially in Idukki and Wayanad districts where thousands of hectares of farm land was damaged, Vijayan said: "From now on in all districts of the state barring Idukki and Wayanad, loans taken by farmers till March 2014 would get the benefit of the moratorium."
This was earlier fixed for all loans taken till March 2011.
"Farmers in Idukki and Wayanad will get this benefit on all loans taken till August 31, 2018," he added.
The decision came following reports of half a dozen farmer suicides in Idukki district over the past two months.
"Hitherto it was only the loans taken by farmers from the cooperative banks that got the benefit from the Kerala State Farmers' Debt Relief Commission.
"We have now asked the Agriculture and Planning Departments to have a look into the loans taken from commercial banks and public sector banks. Moreover, the limit of the loans that get the benefit of moratorium has now been increased form Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh," said Vijayan.
In the aftermath of last year's floods, banks in the state have been using the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002, (also known as the Sarfaesi Act) to recover loans from farmers.
As part of this recovery process, notices were being sent to auction residential or commercial properties of those who default.
Close to 15,000 farmers in Idukki district alone have received recovery notices from both commercial and cooperative banks.
According to official statistics, the floods damaged around 11,000 hectares of agricultural land in Idukki leaving almost 35,000 farmers in distress.
Vijayan, on Wednesday will also preside over the meeting of the State Level Bankers Committee here and is expected to demand that the public sector and commercial banks adopt the same stand that the state government has taken.
He said the compensation for the losses suffered by farmers on cash crops has also been increased.
For every yielding areca nut tree that has been damaged, prices have been hiked from Rs 150 to Rs 300, cocoa from Rs 100 to Rs 200, coffee Rs 100 to Rs 200, pepper Rs 75 to Rs 150, nutmeg Rs 400 to Rs 800, cloves Rs 100 to Rs 200 and for cardamom it has been hiked from Rs 18,000 per hectare to Rs 25,000 per hectare.