Agri Business

How monkeys are wreaking havoc in Karnataka’s coffee estates

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on December 03, 2019

Coffee beans destroyed by monkeys.   -  BusinessLine

The simians pluck ripened beans and eat them causing huge losses to growers, who are already reeling from poor prices and erratic rainfall

After poor prices and freak weather patterns, it’s now simians that are piling on the misery for Karnataka’s beleaguered coffee growers. The State is the largest producer of the bean in India. The monkeys are attracted to the ripened coffee beans, which contain a pulpy sweetish juice.

“The monkeys suck the juice out of the ripened coffee fruits and put the beans down,” says Jayanth Pemmiah, a grower in Murnad, Kodagu. “At current prices, it does not make economic sense for us to collect the damaged beans” says Pemmiah, who has been facing the monkey menace for many years now.

Growing menace

“The number of growers complaining about the rising monkey menace this year has gone up,” says MC Kariappa, President of the Codagu Planters Association (CPA).

Growers across the key producing districts of Kodagu, Hassan and Chikkamagalur have been complaining about the monkey menace, which has turned rampant and affected their output adversely. This is even as the harvest of the ripened arabicas, the mild and premium variety, has begun across all these regions.

The latest spell of rains, triggered by the depression in the Bay of Bengal, are also seen posing a risk to the output, growers say.

There are more than 200 monkeys in the Murnad area and their population has been increasing. “Every day we are losing about 1 bag of coffee (about 50 kg) due to the monkey menace,” says Pemmiah. “With an average crop, on an annual basis, we face a loss of around 50 bags, which in value terms is around ₹1.5 lakh. If the crop is good, we lose around 100 bags,” Pemmiah says.

“There is no value or premium for the monkey-dropped coffee. Otherwise, we would have collected the dropped beans, and sold them,” he adds.

Rising costs

Growers, already reeling under the impact of low prices, are being forced to incur additional costs to protect whatever crop is left on the coffee bushes, Kariappa says. Some growers have hired watchmen to guard their coffee crop and have been bursting crackers to chase the monkeys. But such measures have not been effective, says Kariappa.

“The Forest Department should catch the monkey and shift them to far off places to some reserve forests,” adds Pemmiah.

N Bose Mandanna, a large grower at Suntikoppa with over 53 years of experience as a coffee planter, says monkeys settling down in estates as permanent residents has become a big challenge. “Earlier, there were isolated cases of monkey packs entering the estate. They used to go away. But now they are becoming permanent residents causing a lot of damage,” he says. Areas around Chettalli, Siddapura, Polibetta and Madikeri have seen rampant monkey infestation.

Another instance of the havoc caused by the simians.   -  BusinessLine

Not just monkeys

“To save any crop is a big challenge for the planters now. It is getting impossible,” explains Mandanna, adding that other wildlife such as elephants and porcupines also pose a challenge. Interestingly, most of the monkeys visiting the estates now are not afraid of human beings. Many have been relocated in the forest areas of Kodagu from the urban areas of South Kanara and Kerala among others.

Shirish Vijayendra, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association, says young robusta plants are more vulnerable to the monkey menace this year as the simians have been destroying the 1-2 year old plants. As a result, growers will be forced to replant them again.

Cardamom crop also affected

The monkey menace is not just hurting the coffee growers. Even cardamom growers are struggling to cope with the menace. “Many coffee growers have taken up planting of cardamom this year on account of good rains. The monkeys are seen uprooting young cardamom plants across many places,” says UM Thirthmallesh of the Karnataka Growers Federation.

Kariappa says the latest spell of rains “will affect us all as the ripe beans will split and fall on the ground. Arabica growers especially have to face the brunt of it. We have just finished weeding and with rains the weeds will sprout all over again”.

Hit by erratic weather, coffee output for the 2019-20 crop season starting October is seen plummeting 30-35 per cent over the previous year’s 3.19 lakh tonnes, growers says.

Published on December 03, 2019

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