Days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushed through the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the 10-member ASEAN,reservations raised at the Cabinet meeting by two Ministers from Kerala A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi that it would hurt cash-crop farmers have found an echo among other political leaders in the state.
Although the Centre has decided to set up a high-level committee possibly a Group of Ministers to look into these concerns,Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has written to the Prime Minister requesting him not to go ahead with the FTA and even allies of the Congress-led United Democratic Front have joined in.
Opposition leader Oommen Chandy,with Congress MPs,met Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma,who is learnt to have assured him that some agricultural and fisheries products from Kerala would be put on the negative list to protect the states interests.
Chandy will also meet the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
Party state chief Ramesh Chennithala said that the ASEAN agreement would be beneficial for the country and the party would take necessary steps to protect the concerns of the farm sector.
Antony and other leaders from Kerala have said that the FTA would hurt farmers cultivating pepper,tea,coffee and coconut and would affect those engaged in traditional sectors like coir,cashew-processing and seafood.
Critics have said that coconut-growers would also be affected as imported palm oil from ASEAN countries will come in at a lower price.