The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is developing a mechanised coffee harvester, which can reduce labour dependence by about 50-60 per cent, said Coffee Board CEO and Secretary, K G Jagadeesha, on Wednesday.

Addressing the members of United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) in Coonoor, Jagadeesha said the prototype of the harvesting machine is customised to the Indian conditions. In India, coffee is largely shade grown in the hilly terrains, where mechanising the operations has been a challenge, so far.

Key challenges

Rising labour costs and shortage of workers have emerged as key challenges for the coffee growers in the recent years. Labour costs account for about 65 per cent of the cost of coffee cultivation, he said. Reducing costs and improving value realisation will help growers earn decent living from the coffee cultivation.

Jagadeesha exhorted the growers to come out of the comfort zone and look at adopting mechanisation while going in for replacing of old bushes over the next five years, a move that could boost the yields. About 90 per cent of the coffee production in an estate comes from 40 per cent of the plants, while the remaining 60 per cent of the plants, which are aged 40-50 years are yielding less as they have crossed the economic age. The yields starts declining in Arabica plants after 40 years and in Robusta after 50 years.

The Coffee Board has proposed a national replantation policy for the traditional coffee-growing States of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which is awaiting the Government’s approval.

‘Invest more time’

Stating that Indian coffees are the best, Jagadeesha asked growers to invest more time and efforts in improving the quality of the coffees. On building a brand for the Indian coffees, the Coffee Board CEO told the industry that the effort should be society-driven. “All of us need to come together. Indians should speak high about our coffee,” he said.

India, the fifth largest exporter of coffees is organising the World Coffee Conference (WCC 2023) in Bengaluru from September 25-28, where over 2,000 delegates are expected to participate. The event is expected to showcase the Indian coffees to the global buyers.