Agri Business

Coffee growers staring at costly washout

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on August 22, 2019 Published on August 22, 2019

Besides coffee, flooding has badly impacted paddy fields, arecanut plantations and the pepper crop in this part of the western ghats

Planters grappling with low prices dealt severe blow by cloudbursts for second year in a row

Heavy rainfall over past few weeks have dealt a severe blow to the country’s coffee sector. The unprecedented high intensity rainfall in the first two weeks of August that hit key coffee-growing districts such as Chikamagalur and Kodagu in Karnataka and Wayanad in Kerala triggered large-scale flooding and landslides, inflicting heavy losses on to the growers, who were already reeling under the impact of low prices.

Double whammy

Such high intensity rainfall was witnessed in these regions for the second consecutive year and is set to shrink the size of the forthcoming crop for 2019-20, starting October.

If North Kodagu bore the brunt of excess rains last year, it was the turn of South Kodagu region this year. Mudigere taluk witnessed the maximum impact of the rains in Chikmagalur.

“It is a big setback for the coffee industry,” said UM Teerthamallesh, President, Karnataka Growers Federation. “Several affected areas are still inaccessible. In Mudigere alone, about 500 hectares of coffee has been affected,” he said.

Several areas in Mudigere such as Jawali, Malemane, Aravinkere and Kottigera; and Birnani and Kakkabbe in South Kodagu have received between 70-100 inches of rains within a span of 10 days and such heavy precipitation has already triggered berry droppings and wet feet conditions in coffee, growers said.

Besides coffee, flooding has badly impacted paddy fields, arecanut plantations and pepper crop in the region. Teerthamallesh said that provisionally, the losses, including that of property and other infrastructure, could be around ₹2,500 crore and the government should treat this as a national calamity.

The State-run Coffee Board has started assessing the rain impact. The Board and the Karnataka Planters Association are seeking details from growers on the quantum of losses suffered.

Cloudburst

For the beleaguered coffee growers, who have been reeling under the impact of low prices, the deluge has added to their woes. Interestingly, Chikmagalur district faced a rain deficit of 34 per cent from June 1 till July 31, while the shortfall was higher at 46 per cent in Kodagu and 16 per cent in Hassan.

However, the intense precipitation during August 1-16, resulted in a 194 per cent excess in Chikmagalur and a surplus of 180 per cent in Kodagu and 339 per cent in Hassan during the period.

“It is a catastrophe. The coffee industry will be in big trouble. It looks like the coffee sector has been pushed back by about 25 years,” said BS Jayaram, former president of Karnataka Growers Federation, and a grower in Mudigere.

Bose Mandanna, a large grower in Suntikoppa, said the crop losses triggered by the berry droppings could shrink the country’s coffee crop size for 2019-20. The forthcoming crop could be lower by at least a third over last year’s 3.2 lakh tonnes, Mandanna said.

Wayanad scene

In Wayanad, the major robusta growing region in Kerala, erratic rainfall had resulted in poor blossom this year. The heavy rains in early August have triggered berry droppings.

“We could end up with a 10 per cent lower crop than last year, which was a bad crop. This year, we may not cross 35,000 tonnes,” said Prashant Rajesh, secretary of the growers body in Wayanad. Coffee Board had estimated 2018-19 crop in Wayanad at 58,000 tonnes, but the growers pegged it lower at 40,000 tonnes.

Published on August 22, 2019
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