Agri Business

Rains brew trouble for Arabica coffee harvest

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on October 19, 2021

Heavy rains in Kodagu, Karnataka, have resulted in algae growing on coffee plants. (file pic)   -  NS

Growers demand polyhouse subsidy for coffee drying

The extended monsoon rainfall will likely hurt coffee growers, mainly those in whose estates the Arabica variety has ripened early.

Growers, who had received early blossom showers in January-February this year, have seen their coffee ripen early and are forced to harvest. However, continuous rains in the recent days is seen affecting the plucking, resulting in a berry split and drop or wilting of the fruit on the branches.

Arabica harvest normally starts around December, but this year, farmers have been picking the ripened beans for close to a month now.

Drying impacted

“We have been harvesting Arabica for about a month now. The extended monsoon has impacted the harvest, not only plucking but also the drying of beans,” said BS Jayaram, a grower near Mudigere and former president of the Karnataka Growers’ Federation.

Jayaram suggested that the government extend the subsidy provided for setting up polyhouses to coffee growers also, who can utilise the infrastructure for drying the beans.

According to growers, roughly about 20 per cent of the Arabica crop had ripened early this year.

Coffee-growing regions in Karnataka and Kerala are still receiving rains. “Definitely, there will be damage to the crop. We will have to assess the impact after the rains,” said Jeffry Rebello, Vice-Chairman, United Planters’ Association of South India (UPASI).

Besides, rains are proving to be a dampener for other cultural operations such as manuring and weeding among others.

Planters depend on migrant labourers for coffee picking. “As picking workers come only after Diwali, available workers need to be diverted,” Rebello said.

Fungal disease

“Due to the rains, all the ripened fruits are falling. If there are labourers available, planters are able to pick them otherwise it is dropping,” said S Appadurai, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association (KPA). Appadurai said about 15-20 per cent of the Arabica crop has ripened early this year due to rains in early part of the year.

Bose Mandanna, a large Arabica grower in Suntikoppa, near Madikeri said the crop could suffer major damage due to the continuous rains and also due to the outbreak of fungal disease wherein the ripened beans rot on the branches.

“Ripened coffee could split and drop to the ground. Even if we pick it, we cannot dry it. The SLN 9 variety of Arabica, which ripens fast, is being picked, but drying is an issue due to rains and cloudy weather. Quality could suffer as drying needs good sunshine,” Mandanna said.

Arabica prices are good, tracking an uptrend in global prices on concerns of crop loss in Brazil. Prices of Arabica parchment are ruling at ₹13,500 per 50-kg bag.

“We saw a fairly good crop at one point of time, but now the damage could be significant due to the rains. The number of rain days are extraordinary this year. From an average of 90-95 days the rainy days are more than 120 days this year,” he said.

Crop projections

For the current crop year 2021-22, the output, according to Coffee Board’s post-blossom estimates has been pegged at 3.69 lakh tonnes, against the final output of 3.34 lakh tonnes in 2020-21. Arabica output is seen higher at 1.08 lakh tonnes compared with 99,000 tonnes, while robusta production is expected to be around 2.60 lakh tonnes against 2.35 lakh tonnes.

Published on October 18, 2021

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