Coffee growers in three Karnataka districts are gripped by the fear of black rot disease affecting their crop, after heavy rains lashed the region. Many parts of Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan districts may see an abysmally low coffee and agriculture output after they received in excess of 60 inches of rain.
Spices like black pepper and cardamom, produced in the coffee estates as alternative crops, have also perished, besides the paddy fields which were washed away in the recent floods.
For the second year in a row, coffee growers, especially small planters, are worried over the increase in berry droppings and fungal disease affecting their crop. It is estimated that the rain last year has caused a 60% loss for coffee and pepper crops in these districts.
Naj Chengappa, a coffee planter from Kodagu, said, “Due to the excess rainfall this year, the disease will affect both Arabica and Robusta coffee. The most striking symptoms are blackening and rotting of the leaves and tender berries.”
“Last year, there was low production of coffee from North Kodagu region due to rain and landslides, this year South Kodagu will be most affected. Since there is no proper sunlight in Kodagu for almost a month now, it will cause fungal disease to coffee, black pepper and cardamom” added Cehngappa.
Coffee growers are also worried about the falling price of coffee and pepper for the last three years.
Kaibulira Harish Appaiah, president of Kodagu Growers’ Association says, “Rains this year has caused 60% loss for coffee and pepper crops in the district. Due to rain-related disease to coffee, more than 90 % of small growers will be affected.”
The exact damages to coffee crop is yet to be assessed by the government. Initial estimates indicate that 1.5 lakh hectares of coffee estates could have been damaged in Karnataka this year. The Coffee Board is yet to publish final estimates loss of production for the year 2018-19.
Karnataka accounts for 70 per cent of India’s coffee production. In 2018-19 alone, it produced 219,550 metric tonnes (post monsoon estimate) of robusta and arabica variety of coffee.