The extended South-West monsoon that has brought torrential rains, especially in the central Travancore belt, has dampened the prospects of many plantation crops such as tea, cardamom, rubber, pineapple at a time when the sector was recouping gradually from the Covid impact.

Tea production in Munnar, Vandiperiyar and Valparai has been severely impacted by the unusual weather pattern and a senior official in a leading tea manufacturing company attributed this to climate change. “The number of wet days has gone up after the initial drought in the first two months of the current fiscal”, he told BusinessLine.

Normally, the South-West monsoon would have started to recede from August but it is still continuing, affecting the cropping season in September-October. This has hit tea production and would reflect in the numbers in the current fiscal, he added.

YC Stephen, president of Small Tea Growers Federation, in Kattapana, said that the incessant rains since March have affected plucking of green leaves and buds, leading to decaying of plants and its growth. This has reduced the availability of green leaves to around 30 kg per acre from the earlier level of 300 kg.

Rubber production disrupted

“The natural rubber market was slowly returning to normalcy post lockdown but the unprecedented rains in October have inflicted a mental trauma on farmers when prices started moving north,” George Valy, president of Indian Rubber Dealers Federation.

Production was disrupted due to continuous morning rains, making it difficult to tap even rain-guarded trees. Flash floods and landslides in Mundakkayam, Mallappilli, Manimala in Kottayam district, all main rubber producing centres, have caused irreparable damage to plantations.

A reasonable level of production can be expected if only continuous 10-15 day tapping in bright sunny days can be assured, and these conditions can develop by December, he said citing the forecast of North East monsoon which can happen any time soon. The supply situation of NR is tight due to production loss in the first 15 days of October vis-a-vis September. In the absence of sufficient arrivals, tyre companies are not active in the market and their entry will add further pressure to growers, Valy said.

Cardamom & pineapple lose flavour

PC Punnoose, CEO, CPMCS Ltd, Thekkady, highlighted the havoc of rains from July, leading to an erratic cardamom production in the traditional belts of Kumili, Vandanmedu, Kattappana in Idukki district. Heavy downpours have affected production and vegetative growth, impacting soil fertility in sloping terrains, leading to a slow flowering and settings. Fungal issues are also rampant in cardamom plants due to the delay in cultural processes such as fertiliser application, insecticide spraying following weather-related issues. This has forced farmers to spend more to control diseases to improve productivity.

According to Baby John, president of Pineapple Growers Association Keralam, the continuous rains in the last fortnight have hit production, bringing down the prices to ₹20 a kg from ₹35. Drop in price came at a time when demand was at its peak, thanks to festival and marriage season in North India. Rains have affected planting of new crops.