Patchy pre-monsoon rains during March-May are likely to weigh on India’s coffee output for the crop year 2023-24 starting October.

Key producing districts of Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru experienced a rainfall deficit of 25 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, during the March 1-May 25 period. However, cumulative rainfall during the period has been 28 per cent more in Hassan and 5 per cent excess in Wayanad districts, as per the IMD data.

“We do have a concern as the rainfall is deficit so far. We were in a worse situation about 15-20 days ago, but now it is getting better,” said KG Jagadeesha, Secretary and CEO, Coffee Board.

Crucial for blossom

With the rainfall being patchy across several pockets of the key producing regions, growers see the unfavourable weather hurting the prospects of robusta and arabica varieties. Pre-monsoon rainfall during March-May is crucial for the coffee blossoms and crop setting. Growers in several areas couldn’t take up sprinkler irrigation in their estates due to lack of adequate water during this summer, which saw higher than normal temperatures.

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“Definitely, there will be some impact on crop setting as the rains initially were not good. We will have to wait for some more time to quantify the impact,” said Jeffry Rebello, President, United Planters’ Association of South India (UPASI). It has been a running blossom in many areas due to the uneven rainfall, he said.

“Blossom was bad in many places due to the prolonged drought like conditions as a result of which the crop setting has been affected,” said Mahesh Shashidhar, Chairman, Karnataka Planters’ Association in Chikkmagaluru, stating that robusta will be a concern while overall output is likely to be same as of the current year.

Fruit settings hit

Recently, the USDA India Post said deficit pre-monsoon rains were expected to impact yields negatively as fruit setting has dropped significantly, especially for arabicas. USDA Post expects arabica yields to drop seven per cent with arabica entering off-year in its biennial crop production cycle, while the robusta yields are anticipated to come down by 11 per cent.

Bose Mandanna, a large grower in Suntikoppa, Kodagu, said this year was one of the rare years where the robusta growing areas did not get rain on time. As a result, the robusta output is likely to be lower by 25-35 per cent over the spike estimates carried out in February-March, while arabica has also faced a 10-12 per cent damage in Kodagu, the largest coffee producing district.

Ramesh Rajah, President, Coffee Exporters Association, said through blossom was good, in some regions the backing showers have failed. “I don’t see any big increase in arabica crop because of the hot weather in some places,” he said.