India’s pepper production will likely rebound in the 2023-24 crop year on the weather helping better crop setting in several areas of the largest producing State of Karnataka and new areas coming into production in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The pepper community comprising stakeholders such as growers and the trade expect the crop to be higher this year.

Kishor Shamji of the Indian Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA) said the pepper community comprising farmers, dealers etc has estimated a production of 70,000 tonnes with some new areas coming up in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, and Namakkal, Gudalur, Yercaud, Kodaikanal, Kolli Hills in Tamil Nadu where pepper planting has been aggressive.

As per the Spices Board provisional data, pepper production stood at 64,000 tonnes during 2022-23, lower than the previous year’s 70,000 tonnes.

Up 25% in Karnataka

In Karnataka, the largest producing State, the crop setting looks good this year in some parts of the key producing districts of Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru. “The crop looks better this year as the crop setting has been better for us. We are expecting a 25-30 per cent more production,” said Shamveel, a large grower in the higher elevations near Madikeri, Kodagu.

The auction prices for garbled pepper, which made a recovery since July 2023 have marginally eased to around ₹605 levels. The farm gate prices are 8-10 per cent lower, said Mahesh Shashidar, former chairman of Karnataka Planters Association. Karnataka saw a 20 per cent jump in pepper output during 2022-23 to 36,000 tonnes over 30,000 tonnes a year ago.

Vishwanath KK, convenor of the Pepper Growers’ Consortium said it seems a normal year for pepper crop this year and prices should hold.

Correction sets in

Rising pepper imports are reported to have led to a subdued upcountry demand after the conclusion of festival season in the upcountry markets, impacting the prices which are now ruling at ₹595 per kg for ungarbled varieties.

IPSTA’s Shamji said a correction has started in prices, witnessing a drop of ₹22 per kg in the past month. Shamji attributed this mainly to imports from Vietnam and Sri Lanka to most of the consuming markets which are getting the imported pepper at ₹575 including GST whereas the domestic landing prices come to around ₹625 with transportation cost and GST. Climate change also had an impact on domestic production, he said.

There are also reports that large quantities of Vietnam bolder berries imported at Mundra Port are also available in the domestic market at ₹600 per kg. While the Vietnam import figures during October are not available, export figures from that country show India is the third largest importer of pepper after the US and China, Shamji said, adding that Sri Lankan imports have come down as their stocks are limited due to season end.