Agri Business

Pepper growers expect a good crop this year despite weather woes

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on October 14, 2019 Published on October 14, 2019

The production figure is likely to be flat this year, but there will be price variations for the crop (file photo)   -  The Hindu Business Line

Changes in weather pattern have not dampened the hopes of pepper growers in getting better yields this season. They say that production for the 2019-20 crop season would be in the range of 50,000-55,000 tonnes. Last year’s estimated projection was 48,000 tonnes, but the final figure touched 52,000 tonnes.

“We were expecting a good crop in 2019-20 at more than 60,000 tonnes in the wake of growth spike during November and December in the previous year. However, drought-like conditions in March and April, followed by heavy rain and floods, shattered our expectations,” said Kishore Shamji of Kochi-based Kishor Spices.

He also differed with the projections made by the International Pepper Community for the 2019-20 crop season at 47,000 tonnes, saying that the figure could be higher at between 50,000 tonnes and 55,000 tonnes, almost at the same level as last year.

KK Vishwanath, Coordinator, Consortium of Black Pepper Growers Organisation, told BusinessLine that the final figure for the 2019-20 crop season would be available in a month, when the consultative meeting of the Spices Board with all stakeholders to decide on the crop estimate for 2020 is scheduled. “The production figure is likely to be flat this year, but there will be price variations for the crop,” he said.

Official sources said that the Spices Board is awaiting the figure for the 2019-20 crop from the Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development, Kozhikode, and the report would be placed before the meeting of the Pepper Task Force scheduled to be held in October-end or November first week. In the 2018-19 season, according to DASD figures, black pepper production was around 62,400 tonnes spread over 1.38 lakh hectares.

Rajiv Palicha, Chairman, All India Spices Exporters Forum, said that the overall production in the domestic market this year is likely to be lower due to changes in weather pattern; it may range between 52,000 tonnes and 55,000 tonnes. “It is too early to say anything about the 2020 crop. We may be in a position to get a final figure by November or December,” Palicha said. Referring to rising pepper imports, he said, “We need it for value addition and the prices are also lower.”

According to Shamji, production both in Kerala and Karnataka last year had suffered due to the heavy rain, floods and landslides that destroyed many standing pepper vines.

Domestic prices are currently hovering around ₹300-325 a kg, while the price in Sri Lanka is around ₹200/kg ($2,800/tonne). This has forced exporters to look at imports rather than depend on the domestic market. Quoting figures of August, Shamji said India is the second-largest importer of Vietnamese pepper, after the US, shipping in 16,600 tonnes, compared to 35,000 tonnes by the US.

If Sri Lankan pepper imports continue without any restrictions being imposed by the government, he anticipates a further decline in domestic prices, to ₹250 per kg.

Even the minimum import price of ₹500 per kg imposed by the government to restrict imports and save the domestic pepper growers has not yielded the desired result, as large volume of Vietnamese black pepper routed through Sri Lanka under SAFTA continues to reach Indian shores, flouting all rules, he alleged.

 

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Published on October 14, 2019
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