The drought in neighbouring districts has helped Karnataka’s coffee-growing regions get sufficient labour for picking coffee. This is because farming has been affected in the drought-hit areas. Besides, the slowdown in sectors such as mining and constructions has helped. The coffee belt of Kodagu, Hassan and Chikmagalur are getting many more workers from Mysore, Tumkur Chitradurga and Davangere.

“Easier labour availability has made coffee-picking manageable this season. Availability of workers between December and February is crucial for us to pick coffee and this year there is no dearth of labour,” Bose Mandana, a senior coffee planter from Suntikoppa in Kodagu, told Business Line.

“This year, however, since the crop is lower than the original estimate, we may need less labour,” he said.

Lower wages

Due to more workers being available, wages have fallen by Rs 50-100 a day per person. Coffee-growers are paying Rs 200-250 a day, depending on the nature of work.

Labour shortage in the last three years had forced coffee growers to pay workers between Rs 250 and Rs 300 a day.

“In the last two to three years, we had to literally run behind the contractors to get workers. But this year, it is their turn to knock on our doors for estate-related jobs. This season, I am getting 20 to 30 calls per day, asking if I need workers,” said Mandana. Marvin Rodrigues, former Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association (KPA) and a grower from Hassan, said: “This year, we are getting people slightly more easily than the last few years. We are paying around Rs 200-210 for temporary workers.”

Nishant Gurjer, Chairman, KPA, and a grower from Chikmagalur, said: “This year, labour supply is plentiful and people are coming to work on the estates.”

“We are also getting quite a few experienced workers, who had worked in the estates earlier but had moved over to the mining and construction sector. Since these sectors are not doing too well now, they have returned.”

(This article was published on January 4, 2013)
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