Inclement weather in pepper growing regions in Kerala has forced growers to delay the harvest in the current season.

The climatic conditions, with cloudy weather and rains in the evening, have affected maturing of berries in spikes, which could result in lower production, said Kishore Shamji, Co-oridnator, Indian Pepper and Spice Traders Growers Planters Consortium, Kerala chapter.

The southern districts in Kerala normally start harvest during November and December. But this year, it commenced late from January especially in Idukki, Pathanamthitta as rains prevented farmers from plucking. If the harvested pepper was not dried on the next day, the shortage would be much higher and lower the bulk density of the crop, he said.


Crop outlook

Pepper crop in 2021 is likely to be lower as strong winds and rains last year in Kerala and Karnataka are likely to upset the production. Pepper production in 2020 was at 65,000-70,000 tonnes.

“We are expecting the production to hover around 60,000 tonnes in the current season and the Spices Board has in its report to International Pepper Community also put a similar figure”, Shamji said.

The demand is picking up in the North Indian consuming markets with the opening of hotels, catering centres and eateries. All these activities would lead to more buying.

If the harvest starts in full swing, Shamji said the demand would pick up on arrivals in domestic market. There could be some decline in prices as well. The ungarbled pepper was priced at ₹325 per kg, while MG1 garbled varieties stood at ₹345 in Kochi on Monday.

However, the market is witnessing increased pepper imports from Sri Lanka including that of exchange traded commodities. Prices dropped by ₹9 per kg on the arrival of 117 tonnes in the last two weeks, but have stabilised now, he said adding that the association has submitted a memorandum to the Spices Board to take steps to restrict imports.

KK Vishwanath, Advisor to the Consortium, said the effects of rains on the standing pepper crop in Karnataka are much less compared to Kerala as the harvest season there begins only in February. Since the rains are in dry months, it would help irrigate pepper plantations before the harvest.

Losing exports

A spokesman of All India Spices Exporters Forum said Indian pepper prices continue to remain uncompetitive compared to other origins and there is no price parity with other producing countries. The prospects of exports, therefore, do not look bright this year.

The domestic demand was firm, but prices could decline from the current levels to some extent as arrivals pick up and season progresses. Owning to the weather, pepper harvest has been delayed. Though new crop arrivals have commenced, they are expected to pick up only towards the end of the month or early next month, the official said.