Kerala estates in crisis

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on August 22, 2019 Published on August 22, 2019

A preliminary report says that nearly 100 hectares of cultivated land has been affected by rains and landslides   -  H Vibhu

Kerala’s plantation sector has suffered an estimated loss of around ₹120 crore by way of crop and infrastructure damages in the recent rains and landslides in the northern districts as well as in Idukki high ranges.

Association of Planters of Kerala (APK), in its preliminary report, says that nearly 100 hectares of cultivated land has been affected in Wayanad, Malapuram, Palakkad and Idukki.

“A detailed report is awaited,” Ajith BK, Secretary, APK, told BusinessLine. Wayanad has lost around 65 hectares of farmland while Peermedu and Vandiperiyar regions in Idukki lost around 20 hectares in patches. The damaged crops include tea, rubber, cardamom etc, he said.

The planters’ body also urged the State government to appoint a committee to assess the losses, as the industry was recouping from the ill-effects of climate change throughout 2018.

According to Ajith, the Sentinel Rock Estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd in Wayanad alone suffered property and crop loss to the tune of ₹23 crore.

Drop in production

Kerala’s tea production witnessed a 9.6 per cent drop in the first half of 2019 at 27.83 million kg against 30.79 million kg in the same period last year. Tea production last year was 60.82 million kg, which is 1.51 million kg less than the previous year. The decline in tea production was due to stoppage of work in summer following rise in temperature to 40 degrees.

“The tea industry apprehends that there could be a financial meltdown in the sector if the weather plays a spoilsport during the second half,” BP Kariappa, Chairman, APK, said.

The cost of production has already soared above ₹150 per kg while the average tea price is ₹101.76 per kg. The sector is also facing an imminent cash crunch as tripartite wage negotiations are at a critical stage along with the decline in production.

Financial aid sought

The tea sector is expecting immediate financial assistance from the State government to prevent job loss, as the sudden change in weather pattern has distorted the production rhythm of all plantation crops.

PT Joseph, Managing Director, Tropical Plantations, said many of the rubber plantations in the Central Travancore belt are witnessing an abnormal leaf fall due to fungal rot following incessant rains. Normally, the leaf fall phenomenon occur in June-July period for which farmers spray manure in the month of May prior to monsoon.

However, this time, all manure applications went waste due to the absence of rains in June, adding a financial burden to farmers.

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Published on August 22, 2019
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