The ongoing coffee harvest has suffered a setback as heavy unseasonal rains on Monday have impacted the pickings and drying of beans in Karnataka, which accounts for over two thirds of the country’s produce. Rainfall on Monday ranged between 1-3.5 inches across key producing districts of Chikmagalur, Kodagu and Hassan, hurting crop prospects.

“This unseasonal rain is not good at all as only about 30-40 per cent of the robusta crop is harvested in many places. It has rained heavily on the crop and the robusta planters are under pressure to quickly harvest the fruits in 3-4 days amidst the continued labour shortage. If not done, it just starts going to the ground,” said Mahesh Shashidhar, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association. He further said that it is too early to quantify the losses due to the latest spell of unseasonal rains.

Further, Shashidhar said in coffee areas which have received substantial rains of over 1 inch, the buds will start blossoming over next few days.

“The minute the blossoms are out, you cannot carry on with the harvest as it would affect the next crop. It is a double whammy,” he said. Also the early blossom would lead to higher costs as farmers will be forced to take up irrigation, he said.

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“These rains are early by at least 30 days,” said Bose Mandanna, a large grower in Suntikoppa, where it rained over 2.25 inches on Monday. The arabica harvesting is not yet over, while robusta harvest has just started. The unseasonal rains have lead to arabica crop loss of at least 20 per cent, which was there till October-November, he said. Rains during harvest lead to fruit split, which dry and fall off, besides leading to partial blossom in plants where the buds are ready, affecting the 2023-24 crop prospects.

Places such as Virajpet, Madikeri, Siddapur, Chettahalli, Madapur, Suntikoppa, Maldare, Ponnampet, Aralikoppa, Kaskemane, Koppa, among others have received excess rains.

Shashidhar said the prevailing inclement weather will also delay the drying of harvested coffee, leading to quality deterioration.

“We request the Centre and State governments to provide relief to the affected plantation growers. Banks should take note of the damage and restructure the loan accounts and provide relief to the coffee growers,” the KPA chairman said.

In its post monsoon estimate, the Coffee Board has pegged Arabica output for 2022-23 higher at 72,945 tonnes (68,025 tonnes in the previous year) and Robusta at 1.81 lakh tonnes (1.73 lakh tonnes).

“We expect the arabica output to be lower by at least 20 per cent, while the robusta output may range between 1.6-1.65 lakh tonnes,” Shashidhar said.