Agri Business

Untimely rains dent coffee harvest in Karnataka

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on January 07, 2021

Workers showing dropped beans that have to be converted into cherry coffee, which fetch lower realisations

Growers estimate the damage at one-third of crop

The current spell of widespread unseasonal rains have added to the woes of coffee growers in Karnataka, who are in the midst of harvesting 2020-21 crop.

The rains have not only triggered the fruit split and droppings in the standing crop, but have also raised the risk of early blossoms, which could dent the next year’s crop prospects.

The picking of arabicas is in full swing across Kodagu, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru, whereas the robusta has ripened in several areas that received the early blossom showers last year.

“The rains are untimely and will affect the standing crop. Ripened berries will start falling and turn out will be low. We hope it ends soon,” said KG Jagadeesha, Secretary, Coffee Board.

Bean dropping

Growers estimate atleast one-third of the crop could have been damaged due to rains and labour shortage. The harvest has been delayed by about a month this year due to extended monsoon and labour shortage.

“We feel there will be around 35 per cent damage in the arabica crop, due to late picking as there was shortage of labour. Also, in robustas, there will be damage of around 30 per cent. There will be bean droppings as growers have just started harvesting,” said S Appadurai, Chairman, Karnataka Planters’ Association.

The growers find it difficult and expensive to collect the dropped beans. If not collected in time, the beans will start sprouting. Also, the collected beans have to be converted into cherry coffee, which fetch lower realisations. “Washed coffees, as a percentage of overall produce, will reduce and quality will suffer,” Appadurai said.

Prolonged drying

The rains have not just triggered bean split and dropping, but will also prolong the drying process of the washed beans. “Drying of beans, which used to take about a week, will now be extended to over 15 days,” said MS Boje Gowda, Chairman of Coffee Board, and a large grower.

Gowda estimates that the ongoing rains, which are like monsoon rainfall, could have impacted about 20 per cent of the crop.

The Coffee Board, in its post- monsoon estimates, had pegged the 2020-21 crop starting October higher at 3.42 lakh tonnes (lt) as compared to 2.98 lt in the previous year.

“Typically, in January, we would get an odd rain here and there. However, this year, it rained heavily and continuously for the past two days and there’s a forecast for few more days. The January rains, so far, this year are the highest since 1950,” said Shirish Vijayendra, a large grower in Chikkamagaluru.

Yellow alert sounded

The Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority has sounded a yellow alert for seven districts including the key coffee producing districts of Chikkamagaluru, Hassan and Kodagu for the next two days.

“The next year prospects are hit as the rains will trigger early blossom,” Appadurai said. Normally, the coffee growing regions receive blossom showers during March-April. The January rains could trigger the flowering process in several areas leading to uneven blossom, which would hurt the 2021-22 crop starting October.

Bose Mandanna, a grower, said every coffee grower is in serious trouble as the rains have added to the labour shortage. “Our daily harvest, which used to be around 5,000 kgs has come down to 1,500 kgs due to the labour shortage,” he said.

Published on January 07, 2021

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