Flood fury robs Karnataka planters of Rs 800 crore

Gone with the rain

Coffee planters in Karnataka took a hit of an estimated Rs 808 crore as incessant rains and flash floods devastated the growing regions of Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan during the last monsoon.

According to data available with the Coffee Board of India, an estimated 48,250 metric tons of coffee output was lost due to the floods in August 2018. At an average value of Rs 1,67,559 per metric ton in the international market, the loss is estimated at Rs 808 crore. During the current fiscal, India’s coffee exports declined by 9.3% to 342,629 metric tons (as on March 20, 2019), the board data reveals.

The country had exported 3,77,588 metric tons during the previous financial year. The exports include Robusta and Arabica varieties, besides instant coffee.

As per the data available between April 1, 2018, and March 20, 2019, on the Coffee Board website, the shipments were valued at Rs 5,741 crore ($824.79 million). During the corresponding period last year, the shipments were valued at Rs 5,916.61 crore ($918.10 million).

However, planters do not agree with the board’s estimates. They say the loss is much more.

“The growing regions of Kodagu witnessed devastating rains and floods in over 100 years during the last monsoon. This resulted in fruit rot and drop in berries. We estimate the loss of crop to be in excess of 70,000 metric tons valued at close to Rs 1,500 crore,” said M B Ganapathy, chairman, Karnataka Planters Association.

Since the beginning of the coffee crop year in October 2018, the exports have seen a drop of 9.2% till March 20, 2019. During this period, exports stood at 1,59,991 metric tons compared to 1,76,245 metric tons during the corresponding period last year.

The decline in exports is attributed to a lower crop during the crop year 2018-19. The post-monsoon crop is estimated at 3,19,500 metric tons comprising 95,000 metric tons of Arabica and 2,24,500 metric tons of Robusta. The production is estimated to be lower by 15.92% by the Coffee Board.

“The unit value realisation includes instant coffee, Arabica and Robusta as well. When calculated separately, the loss is much higher. Given the current prices, which are the lowest in the last 30 years, the planter will not recover even his cost of production,” said Ramesh Rajah, president, Coffee Exporters Association.

The decline in production was due to heavy monsoon rain which impacted yields in the key coffee-growing regions. “Excess rain and landslides occurred across the growing regions in Kodagu district in Karnataka, resulting in fruit rot and berry drop. The plants could not hold the crop due to excess rains in the growing region,” said Nishant Gurjer, a grower and exporter of coffee.

It is evident that in all the major coffee-growing areas of Karnataka and Kerala, there is an excess rainfall of 46% to 98% during the January-September 2018 period in comparison to the rainfall received during the corresponding period of the previous year, the Coffee Board said.

The continuous rains led to soil saturation and wet feet conditions, resulting in defoliation, berry drop and incidences of stalk rot and black rot. Uprooting of shade trees as well as landslides have also damaged the crop, the board said.

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Flood fury robs Karnataka planters of Rs 800 crore

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