Coffee goes cold as wet streak hits crops

Loss story

Coffee planters say at least 40% Arabica, 30% Robusta crops lost

Coffee plantations in the state are getting "cold feet". With incessant rains rendering the estate lands wet for the last couple of months, ripe coffee berries are falling to the ground and leaves are wilting, destroying hundreds of acres of crops.

Still reeling from last year's floods, coffee planters estimate their losses to be anywhere between 40-45% for Arabica and 30-35% for Robusta crops this year.

The post-monsoon estimate of coffee production in Karnataka was 2.19 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 (Arabica 67,950 tonnes, Robusta 1,51,600 tonnes). The wilting leaves only mean that even the fresh berries will not ripe for the next season, affecting coffee production for yet another cycle. Planters say it will take at least two years before they can recover from the disaster.

Speaking to DH, M C Kariappa, chairman of Codagu Planters' Association, said "cold feet" was a condition where coffee plants suffered fungal infection owing to excessive moisture (also called "Kole Roga" in Kannada). Considering that the rainy season was continuing, the losses could go up, he said.

Kariappa lost about six acres of his estate to landslide last year. "We have never seen rains like this in October. The situation is grim. The collection of berries this time would be 55% lesser than a good year, as far as my estate is concerned."

The Chikkamagalur-Hassan-Kodagu belt had suffered huge crop losses in 2018. This was followed by a period of drought in the first half of this year, only to be followed by severe rains since August again.

If nature hadn't played havoc, the planters would be harvesting the Arabica crop by November.

N K Pradeep, president, Karnataka Growers' Federation, explained, "We have about 15% ripe berries but the clearing capacity is not even 2%. Also, leaves are shedding because of the prolonged wet season. This will impact the next crop season too."

Chikkamagalur, Mudigere and the southern parts of Coorg have been affected more, said Karnataka Planters' Association chairman M A Ganapathy, adding that the production loss would impact exports. However, local consumption will not be hit, he said.

Coffee Board officials said they were yet to come out with the official data of the impact of this year's rain on production.

All the planters DH spoke with said they were yet to receive any compensation from the government. They were not eligible for crop insurance either as coffee was not covered under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. They urged the government to take immediate measures for compensation for loss of land and crops.

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