Agri Business

Karnataka coffee growers turn jittery over erratic monsoon

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 10, 2016

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A rainfall deficit of up to 30 per cent, this monsoon so far, in some of the key coffee growing regions of Karnataka — the top producing State — has left the growers worried about crop prospects for the next two seasons starting October.

Besides, the erratic rains are seen aiding the emergence of pests such as the white stem borer (WSB), mainly in Kodagu that could hurt the production, growers said.

However, the Coffee Board sought to downplay the rain-deficit stating that lower-than-normal rains would not impact the output this year.

Deficit in some areas

While monsoon across the country this year has by far been normal, several coffee growing regions in Western Ghats such as Kodagu and Chikmagaluru have witnessed a deficit.

“The monsoon has largely failed in Malnad region of Karnataka. We are staring at a third consecutive drought this year, unless it rains in the days ahead,” said Baba PS Bedi, Chairman of the Karnataka Planters Association, the apex body of planters in the State.

A deficit rainfall that impacts the water table could hurt the output during the next season and may hurt the prospects for the 2017-18, he said.

Output dip

The Coffee Board has predicted an 8 per cent decline in output for the 2016-17 season starting October at 3.2 lakh tonnes (lt) on prolonged dry spell and delayed blossom (pre-monsoon) showers.

The Board in its initial or post-blossom estimates had pegged the robusta output about 10 per cent lower at 2.2 lt and arabica at 3.38 per cent lower at around 1 lt. “We expect the decline in crop size to be higher than what the government has predicted,” Bedi added.

Taking note of the erratic and deficit rains in the Malnad region, the State government is contemplating taking up cloud seeding in parts of Western Ghats. “We are planning to approach the government on this issue,” Bedi said.

“As of now, the deficit rainfall is not likely to have any impact on the coffee output for 2016-17 season,” said Y Raghuramulu, Director of the Balehonnur-based Central Coffee Research Institute.

Also, the break in rains this year is likely to result in the early ripening of the coffee berries, advancing the harvest season, Raghuramulu added.

WSB menace

Meanwhile, growers in parts of Kodagu are worried over the emergence of the white stem borer (WSB), a major pest affecting the Arabica variety of coffee that could potentially shrink the output further in the region.

“In some areas such as Chettalli, Suntikoppa and Polibetta, the rainfall has been erratic, resulting in a deficit of around 30 per cent. The dry spell created by the break in rains has made the environment conducive for the white stem borer to take off. The WSB is seen emerging in some of these areas,” said N Bose Mandanna, a planter-based in Suntikoppa. Besides coffee, pepper is also being impacted by the erratic rainfall, which has delayed flowering in some areas, he said.

WSB, a pest that affects the arabica variety, has been a major cause of concern for growers in India as there is no effective solution to combat this pest. WSB has two flight periods in a year — during April-May and in October-December —where the beetles come out from the Arabica plants and spread to newer plants.

Nishant Gurjer, a planter in Chikmagalur, said the current deficit in rainfall was unlikely to have an impact on the forthcoming crop. However, if this dry spell prolongs for a long time impacting the water table, it could dampen the prospects for the 2017-18 crop.

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Published on August 10, 2016
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