Coffee industry plunges into gloom after erratic rainfall

Business Food
Growers incur a loss; 1.25Lakh acres of plantation hit

Owing to heavy and uneven rain, Karnataka’s coffee plantations have been badly affected. Crop cultivation has dropped across varieties: 25 per cent in Arabica and 35 per cent in Robusta, said Ram Karrekolli, a coffee grower in Kodagu.

Since Karnataka is the largest coffee producer in India, this doesn’t augur well for the country’s coffee production.

C.C. Thimmaiah, another coffee planter in Kodagu, informed The Observer: “It is not that many acres are affected. The area where there is excess rainfall may have a lot of coffee dropping and, therefore, there may be a loss of production for the year. Arabica is susceptible to black rot disease due to excess rain… the leaves and berries may rot.”

During the past three years, he said, “I must have lost about two tonnes of coffee on the plant.”

Nanda Belliappa, Vice Chairman of the Codagu Planters Association (CPA), said  almost 60 per cent of the coffee-growing area has been affected, causing losses to around 2.5 lakh farmers. Further, 1.25 lakh acres of coffee plantation has been affected due to the heavy rain in August and early September.

Former Vice Chairman of the Coffee Board of India Bose Mandanna said the rainfall was erratic this year. In 2022, the Western Ghats received heavy rain. Coorg and Chikmagalur have been the worst affected. Black rot has aggravated the situation.

Director of Research, Coffee Board of Karnataka, M. Senthil Kumar said normal rainfall is necessary for coffee crops. But when rain is excessive and distribution uneven, the crop is damaged, and there is crop drop.

Crop drop refers to the reduction in the estimate from the time when the estimate was first made, i.e., during the blossom,  and the final estimate. This year, the crop drop is 35 per cent.

In June, Kumar said, there is a crop drop in all coffee crops. A normal drop is 10 per cent. That time the crop adjusts according to the nutrients present in the plants.

When rainfall increases, crop drop goes up to 15-20 per cent; if it goes beyond 30 per cent, crops get damaged.

During that time, the government lends monetary support to coffee growers. Also, the Disaster Management Committee conduct surveys and assesses the losses growers have incurred.

Kumar shared that this year, the crop drop was 35 per cent. Production has suffered as the coffee crops have contracted diseases like black rot and  stalk rot due to excess and uneven rain. This year, the wet field condition that happened is mainly responsible for the loss of crops and will most likely affect exports.

Lauren Saldanha, a coffee estate owner in Chikamgalur, said different parts of Karnataka receive different degrees of rain, and as the harvesting season hasn’t begun yet, it is difficult to say to what extent the excessive rainfall will affect the production.

More than 50 per cent of India’s coffee labourers work in Karnataka. Coffee cultivation provides them good earning opportunities, housing, medical care and education.

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