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No Coffee, No Pepper: Kerala Farmers Hopeless as Floods Wash Off Entire Year's Crops

With a gross domestic product (GDP) worth Rs 8 lakh crore, coffee, cardamom, rubber and pepper alone account for roughly 20 percent of the Kerala's income.

Rounak Kumar Gunjan | News18.com@Rounak_T

Updated:August 21, 2018, 10:19 AM IST
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Kerala's devastating deluge has brought the state's economy to a standstill with thousands of farmers clueless about their future course of action as rain waters have destroyed year-long plantations, leaving behind nothing but despair.

“All of the coffee berries are gone. The trees are somehow standing but with no beans. We have no clue how will we earn even after the water recedes. These plantations are what we bank on. Now we can only wait for the next year for future course of action, however, this year will be very difficult," said Saseendra Babu, a local producer in Kerala.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) worth Rs 8 lakh crore, coffee, cardamom, rubber and pepper alone account for roughly 20 percent of the state's income.

Justin Mohan, director of Department of Agriculture Development and Farmer's Welfare, said, "Preliminary findings show that nearly 1,82,000 farmers are directly affected, and nearly 28,150 hectares of farm land are submerged in flood waters. The estimated loss of crops in revenue is expected to be around Rs 700 crore, but could go up."

Speaking to News18, Srivatsa Krishna, CEO Coffee Board, an arm of the Union Commerce Ministry, said, "As the plantations’ growing areas are inaccessible, the real picture of the loss to crops such as coffee, rubber, cardamom, and pepper can be expected to be larger than the current assessment."

The incessant rains have also caused serious damages in neighbouring states. In Karnataka, which accounts for over 70 percent of the coffee produced in the country, rain has damaged plantations in the producing regions of Kodagu and Chikmagaluru.

“The unprecedented rain has resulted in devastation of coffee plantations of unimaginable proportion. Coffee plants have also been uprooted in vast areas,” said HT Pramod, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association (KPA), the apex body of planters in the state.

The planters’ bodies estimate the 2018-19 coffee crop loss at 70-80 percent.

Strong winds along with rains have also washed off the pepper spikes in both the states, negatively impacting pepper production. The waterlogging in the areas will also damaged the cultivation extensively, according to multiple farmers.

According to data provided by the state's Disaster Management department, the estimated crop loss due to incessant rainfall in Kerala between August 8 and 15 was estimated to be around Rs 55 crore. Northwards of 3,500 hectares had been impacted by the showers by then. Updated official data on this is yet to be provided.

According to the Economic Survey of the state, in agriculture the cropping pattern is dominated by cash crops constituting 63 percent of the total cropped area.

It was not long ago when India’s coffee exports set a new record in financial year 2017-18, both in terms of volume and rupee value terms. High demand from key buyers in Europe and Russia, higher domestic production and a continued increase in re-exports aided the shipment trend.

Exports were as high as 4 lakh tonne in volume terms, registering a 12 percent growth over the preceding financial year.

Similarly, total spices export from India stood at 1.08 billion kg, valued at USD 3.11 billion in the financial year 2017-18. Top two spices produced in the country include pepper and cardamom, both from the flood-hit state.

Saseendra Babu, the local producer, quoted above also explained the calculation behind the approximated loss.

"4000 tonnes of pepper is produced every year with Rs 1000 per kilogram as its selling price. 90 percent of that is gone. Simple multiplication tells us that Rs 360 crore is at stake here, at least. Only in terms of pepper," said Babu.

Similar numbers were quoted by him for coffee and rubber.

| Edited by: Naqshib Nisar
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