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Karnataka pepper farmers gain after Vietnam slump

Known as 'black gold', the price of one kg of pepper, which was sold for Rs 450 last year, has touched Rs 700 this season. This has made the West turn to India, which is one of the top five exporters of the spice.
Last Updated : 21 June 2024, 22:04 IST

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Hubballi: Black pepper growers in Karnataka have managed to pocket higher prices for their produce after output slumped in drought-hit Vietnam, the world’s biggest producer of the spice, pushing prices to an all-time high.

Known as 'black gold', the price of one kg of pepper, which was sold for Rs 450 last year, has touched Rs 700 this season. This has made the West turn to India, which is one of the top five exporters of the spice. 

For farmers in Karnataka, usually locked in a battle with Vietnam, this has come as good news as the state produces nearly 60% of the country's pepper. 

Girish B R, Managing Director of Karnataka State Spices Development Board, said unfavourable weather conditions hit pepper production across the world.

“On average, Vietnam produces six lakh tonnes of pepper annually," said Girish. "However this year, due to dry climatic conditions, production has fallen significantly. Traditional pepper growing areas of Karnataka had received near to optimum rainfall last monsoon and there was no major outbreak of any disease resulting in comparatively better production."

The official said that prices have gone up as there is high demand from the US, China and European countries. 

According to the Spices Board of India, the country cultivated the spice on more than three lakh hectares (ha) of land that produced 1.25 lakh tonnes of black pepper in 2023-24.

Of this, Karnataka farmers cultivated the spice on 2.22 lakh ha of land and produced nearly 89,000 tonnes of the spice. Kerala, another major pepper-cultivating state, harvested 27,505 tonnes from 73,615 ha of land. 

Data shows that pepper cultivation areas and production in India have been increasing since 2019-20, when the total cultivated area of the pepper creeper was 2.59 lakh ha and production was 61,000 tonnes.

In 2023-24, India exported nearly 17,890 tonnes of pepper for Rs 736.48 crore. Pepper accounts for only 2% of the total spices exported from India.

In Karnataka, pepper is grown mainly in Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, and generally as an allied crop along with coffee or areca.

But the high price has benefited only a limited number of farmers, as many of them sold their produce as soon as it crossed Rs 500 per kg.

“We were not expecting the prices of pepper to hit this high. Last year, it was somewhere between Rs 450 and Rs 480 a kg. As soon as the prices reached Rs 500 or Rs 600 a kg, most farmers sold even their old stock,” said Rohit Rameshwara, Chief Executive Officer of Sirsi’s Kuliyal Farmer Produce Office. 

Similar sentiments were expressed by Kerala farmers too.

Paul Joseph, Idukki-based Rajakumary Spices Producer Society president, said farmers are not benefiting from the present price hike as entire stocks were sold to traders. “Our harvesting period is March and by now all stock has reached traders. Hence they may get the benefit,” he said.

(With inputs from Arjun Raghunath, Thiruvananthapuram)

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Published 21 June 2024, 22:04 IST

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