Pepper is ready to be harvested in one of the plantations.
Growers, who were expecting good returns, are struck by panic as the market rate of pepper is falling.
Pepper, nicknamed as 'Black Gold' was earlier considered as a profitable crop for the growers. Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and parts of Hassan district grow pepper along with coffee. Kodagu is known for the production of best quality pepper, with an annual production of 15,000 tonnes.
But owing to the sale of adulterated pepper imported from Vietnam, the Central government had passed an order in last December fixing the minimum price of pepper to Rs 500 per kg.
The growers usually pluck the pepper raw and then store it after drying it. This measure is unavoidable as the growers are apprehensive about the availability of labourers during the harvesting season.
After the Central government fixed the minimum price, the buyers paid an amount to growers in advance considering the minimum price. But now, the market rate for pepper has plunged to Rs 320-340 per kg.
Growers and buyers say that the minimum price fixing has not been effectively implemented.
Foul play alleged
The growers association has alleged foul play by officials.
Several hundred tonnes of poor quality pepper has been imported from Sri Lanka. There is a possibility of officials mingling with wrongdoers, the growers alleged and have urged authorities to conduct an in-depth probe in this regard.