The 80-year-old finance minister, who has so far presented 11 state budgets and been a legislator since 1967, said hi-tech farming, poly houses (naturally ventilated, climate-controlled spaces for agriculture), the food industry, value addition of agriculture produce like coconuts or even the adoption of a village for the provision of hi-tech farming support could all be possible areas for investment.
Speaking to IANS, Mani said that traditionally, the diaspora community has worked with the belief that IT, tourism or industry are best suited to parking funds.
"We are being told that this time the diaspora remittances would touch Rs.80,000 crore. My piece of advice to the diaspora is to go into areas like poly houses, hi-tech farming and similar areas, where it could be a double gain for both the investor and also for the state. This is why I have specifically included the concept of starting 3,000 poly homes in my latest budget. The investment could be a mere Rs.5 lakh, and it could well be managed by one's own family," Mani explained.
In his 2013 budget speech, Mani emphasised that Kerala was a consumer state, and must think out of the box and adopt state-of-the-art practices in commercial agricultural activities, making full use of appropriate technology.
"I had in mind the diaspora who after many years in the Middle East can, with low investment of around Rs.5 lakh, start a poly house in their home itself, as it requires less than 10 cents of land. Not only is the yield from these poly houses 10 times as compared to natural production, the state will benefit. And with 3,000 poly houses or even more, Kerala can be self-sufficient to a large extend in vegetables," Mani said.
He pointed out that with the availability of technology for commercial agriculture, the means of increasing productivity are close at hand, and underlined that the state sought the aid of the diaspora community in this regard.
"Coconut is one product where there is huge potential for value addition, and today there are technologies for making different products from it. What the state needs is investment," Mani said.
He suggested that an organisation in the Middle East may even consider adopting a Kerala village with the aim of making sure that high-technology farming principles are adopted to maximise yield and ensure soil and environmental health.
"The state government has elaborate subsidy schemes for innovative ventures, and we will be fully supportive. And not all these schemes need huge investments," Mani said.
Kerala has around three million people who earn a living by working abroad, mostly in the Middle East.
--IANS (Posted on 13-09-2013)