Spice touches its all-time high in the city

Prices of black pepper in Mangalore market touched an all time high of Rs. 700 a k.g on Tuesday. Black pepper is grown across the district and some neighbouring districts as an inter-crop in arecanut, coconut and coffee plantations.

Calling the prevailing upmarket trend for the produce both in Karnataka and Kerala as “life time high” Neelam Agarwal, secretary, Indian Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA), Kochi told The Hindu that there is short supply in both the states.

A leading pepper trader at Bunder here P.B. Abdul Hameed told The Hindu that the prices in Mangalore shot up by Rs. 25 from Rs. 675 a kg in a day from Monday to Tuesday.

Mr. Hameed said that farmers have reported that heavy rains last year and wilt disease have resulted in drop in production in this arrival season (March-April).

He said that the prices in the last arrival season (2013) dropped from Rs. 430 a kg from February end to Rs. 330 a kg at the end of April. Later again it started picking up.

Mr. Hameed said that it is estimated that the drop in production could be up to 60 per cent in the current season. Kishore Shamji, a former president of IPSTA, said that it is estimated that the production in Karnataka may drop from 20,000-25,000 tonnes last year to 12,000-14,000 tonnes this year.

Referring to the harvesting of the standing crop he said that the coffee planters in Chikmagalur, Hassan and Kodagu districts did not show much interest in giving contract to contractors this year as they reportedly quoted lower rate.

Hence planters were using their own daily labourers for harvesting. “Hence there is no glut in the market,” he said.

When contractors harvested the produce usually there was glut in the market as they preferred not to hold back the produce.

Now the planters are releasing whatever the produce harvested leisurely to the market. Hence the arrival of the standing crop harvested is also less.

Joe Pradeep D’Souza, Assistant Director, Department of Horticulture agreed that yield has been affected due to wilt disease and heavy rains last year.

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