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Coffee growers hit by sharp decline in prices

A steep fall in the price of Robusta coffee during the harvest season and low production owing to climate change are worrying coffee growers in south India, a major coffee cultivating region in the country.

Spot price of raw Robusta coffee in Wayanad on Saturday was ₹3,618 a bag (54 kg) compared with ₹4,320 about 40 days ago.

The price of coffee beans declined to ₹120 per kg from ₹140 in the period. “Recent reports on bumper coffee production in Brazil, a major coffee-producing country, in the coming season, and increase in production in Vietnam this year owing to favourable climate in coffee growing areas is the major reason for the price fall,” says C.K. Salu, coffee exporter and secretary, Kerala Coffee Processors and Dealers Association.

A recent forecast from Brazil said that coffee production there would reach 62 million bags in the coming season, up from 52-55 million bags (60 kg to a bag) last year, he said, adding the total production in India was 5 million bags a year.

Apart from the low price, a sharp decline in coffee production owing to rain and flood-related calamities in Kerala and Karnataka have also put growers in distress. In Karnataka, which accounts for over 70% of coffee produced in the country, rain has damaged plantations in Kodagu and Chikmagalur.

“Unprecedented rain has resulted in devastation, of coffee plantations, of unimaginable proportion. Heavy rain has also triggered berry droppings and various infections affecting berries, said Darshan, a coffee grower at Sremangala in Kodagu district.

“We were expecting better crop this year owing to the timely rain in the flowering time. But incessant rains since June has dashed hopes as coffee berries have been affected by various diseases,” he said. More than 30% crop loss may be expected this season, he added.

Prasanth Rajesh, president, Wayanad Coffee Growers Association, said there was nearly 20-25% crop loss in Wayanad district, a major Robusta coffee-growing area in Kerala. Heavy rains also triggered a spread of diseases such as black rot disease, heavy berry dropping due to fungal infections and melee bugs, adversely affecting production.

MSP needed

“Traders always have a tendency to cite higher crop production in other countries, only to put pressure on the farm gate price.” Governmen intervention through procurements after fixing a minimum support price is needed, he added. The Coffee Board’s final crop estimate based on crop harvest data for FY18 is 3.16 lakh tonnes, comprising 95,000 tonnes of Arabica and 2.21 lakh tonnes of Robusta.

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