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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Double whammy for Karnataka coffee farmers –– untimely rain and falling prices

Untimely rain that lashed these areas in the last few days has resulted in coffee berries dropping off trees even as farmers are struggling to dry the harvested coffee.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Madikeri | Updated: January 12, 2021 8:20:19 am
karnataka coffee farmers, karnataka coffee prices, karnataka rain, karnataka coffee plantation, indian expressCoffee growers, especially small planters, are worried over the increase in berry droppings and fungal disease affecting their crop. (Express Photo)

A double whammy of unseasonal rain in the midst of a harvesting season and falling prices of coffee has made the farmers worry about their corps in Kodagu (Coorg), Chikmagalur and Sakleshpur in Hassan – a major coffee-growing region.

Untimely rain that lashed these areas in the last few days has resulted in coffee berries dropping off trees even as farmers are struggling to dry the harvested coffee.

“There has been a big impact of the recent rains on the coffee harvest in Kodagu. This is a season of harvesting coffee and drying it, but due rainfall since the last one week, the berry has started to drop and it has become difficult to dry it. Along with labour crises, the growers are worried of berry droppings due to the rain,” said Kushalappa, a large coffee grower in Madikeri, Kodagu.

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 rains.

Coffee growers, especially small planters, are worried over the increase in berry droppings and fungal disease affecting their crop.

Chengappa, a small coffee planter from Kodagu, said, “The rain is unexpected and in recent years this is the first time I have seen heavy rain during the harvest season. The berries are dropped and we can see fungal disease hitting the berries. I have already started to pick the coffee and now I can’t dry the coffee berries under the sun due to cloudy weather or rain. This will affect the quality of the coffee.”

The coffee planters in the state had hoped for a better crop this year after a gap of three years due to flood in rainy seasons. This year, though rain in the rainy season did not affect the coffee plantations, the farmers say the unseasonal rain now in January has damaged standing crop mid-harvest.

Apart from the crop damages, the planters are also facing a labour crisis and the falling price of coffee. The coffee growers association says the price of 50 kg of coffee beans in the market now is almost equal to the price in 1995.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Kaibulira Harish Appaiah, president of Kodagu Growers’ Association said, “In 1995 the 50 kg of robusta cherry coffee bag had a price of 3500, now in the year 2021 the same price continues whereas the labour charge, fertilizers rate have increased.”

“In September 2020 we had a webinar meeting with the Union finance minister Nirmala Seetharaman, where we had explained to her about the problems faced by coffee growers in Kodagu, Hassan and Chikmagalur. From the last three years continuously the coffee growers are suffering from the rain and natural calamity in these three coffee-growing districts. We had requested her to help small growers by waiving their loans. But so far we have not received any help from the Union government,” Appaiah said.

Speaking about the unseasonal rain this year in the midst of harvesting, Appaiah says it is added to the worries of farmers who are already suffering. “Spikes had been formed after the rain, resulting in coffee blooming in different stages. It would not only delay coffee picking this season but also hamper regular picking next year and the drying process is also halted due to bad weather conditions. Both north and south parts of Coorg have received heavy rains for the past one week resulting in damaging the crops,” he added.

The exact damages to coffee crops are yet to be assessed by the government. Karnataka accounts for 70 per cent of India’s coffee production. Meanwhile, India’s coffee output is estimated at a five-year high of 3.42 lakh tonnes in 2020-21 by the coffee board.

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