Trouble brews for coffee growers

Spotty rain to impact bean output

Spotty summer showers will drastically pull down this year’s coffee bean output to almost half of a normal year’s yield, according to the Coffee Board as well as planters.

The dip will hit the domestic coffee industry for the second successive coffee year. Growers are yet to recover from last year’s devastating floods that washed away some plantations entirely in Kodagu and Wayanad.

The country’s annual coffee harvest is done between December and February. This season, fresh blossoms were delayed and the quality of berry/cherry formation was adversely affected due to uneven April showers. This situation would lead to a coffee crop decline of 40-50%, they told The Hindu.

April showers missing

As per Karnataka Planters’ Association, the plantations should have received some rains in April, but it rained only in May. This had adversely impacted the fruit development in arabica and therefore this year’s yield was going be low.

Anil Kumar Bhandari, a leading coffee farmer and also former president of Upasi, said blossom showers have been ‘spotty’ or uneven this year, in particular areas such as Madapur and Somawarpet in Coorg. “Crops in these plantations are going to be drastically low,’’ he said.

M.S. Boje Gowda, Coffee Board chairman and a third-generation planter from the country’s coffee heartland Chikmagalur, said, “The coffee farmers are in deep distress. The State and Central governments should quickly interfere and do something to save the industry that offers direct and indirect livelihood to millions of people.’’

Himu Gowda, a coffee farmer and proprietor of Krishnagiri Plantations in Chikmagalur’s highest peak of Mullayanagiri and Baba Budan Giri areas, said, “Coffee farmers are always at the receiving end. Last year, the floods had eaten away our crop and plants. This year again, we fear almost 50% reduction in output. All these in addition to existing labour, pest and price issues.’’

Coffee Board usually gives out two crop estimates in a year: one based on blossoms and the other, after the monsoons.

‘Situation may worsen’

The bad news is that thecrop situation can get worse if the monsoon is going to be harsh, like last year, said Jagadish Subramaniam, a medium-scale farmer from Ponnampet, Coorg.

As per Upasi’s statistics, India produced 3.16 lakh tonnes of coffee during 2017-18 and the country’s exports were 3.92 lakh tonnes. Karnataka alone accounts for around 80% of the country’s total coffee production. India currently has over three lakh small and medium coffee farmers.

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