Amidst growing challenges such as rising costs, volatile prices and changing climatic conditions hurting production and productivity, representatives of the plantation sector of South India will gather at their annual meet in Coonoor on Monday.

After a gap of almost two years, the United Planters Association of South India (UPASI), the apex trade body for the sector, is holding its 129th annual conference in Coonoor from September 19-20.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual meet last year was organised in a hybrid mode with members participating in the event online, while in 2020, the event was restricted just to the annual general meeting.

States’ stats

The plantation sector plays an integral role in the economy of three southern States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. South India accounts for about 60 per cent of the total area under plantation crops in the country, estimated at around 20 lakh hectares.

South India also accounts for 43.9 per cent of the total value of the plantation commodities grown in the country, estimated at ₹50,993 crore during 2021-22. The share of South India in the export value of these commodities is estimated at 70.4 per cent of ₹15,366 crore during 2021-22, according to UPASI.

Challenging situation

The three South Indian States account for almost a sixth of the country’s total tea output, three-fourths of total natural rubber output, 82 per cent of coffee, and 100 per cent of small cardamom as well as black pepper production.

“The plantation sector is facing a very challenging situation as the labour costs are rising faster than the prices of the commodities, shrinking our profit margins. Adding to that we have the changing climatic conditions, which are hampering our production productivity. So, it is difficult to go forward unless we get the government support to take up value addition to enhance our exports,” said MP Cherian, President, UPASI.

In the case of coffee, the extended monsoon rains till October-November are impacting the output and productivity. “Growers are losing about 20-30 per cent of the coffee crop due to the unseasonal rains,” he said.

Climate change impact

Climate change is also affecting the rubber plantations badly. “We are losing more tapping days due to the inclement weather and the intensity of rainfall is much higher washing away our crops and also the topsoil,” Cherian said.

Climate change and global warming are resulting in a higher incidence of pests and diseases, compounding the challenges for of the growers.

UPASI participants

Tamil Nadu’s Minister of Finance, Planning and Human Resources, Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, will be the Chief Guest at the UPASI’s 129th Annual Conference on Tuesday, September 20. Joseph Avraham, Consul for Trade & Economic Affairs of Israel will be the Guest of Honour.

As a prelude to the main conference, a technical session on plantations will be held Monday, wherein presentations will be made by Jagadeesha, CEO & Secretary Coffee Board and Saurav Pahari, Chairman & Deputy Chairman, Tea Board of India, among others.

The UPASI Industrial Exhibition will be held coinciding with the conference which will provide a platform to exhibit the technological and scientific advancements in the plantation sector.

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