Poor rain, falling prices and labour shortage let down farmers in the district

Even a strong cup brewed from their best produce will not save them from the lows. Such are the odds faced by the coffee growers in Wayanad.

Low production due to erratic weather, declining prices during the harvesting season and a labour shortage have become major concerns for them.

The spot price of Robusta coffee cherry at the Meenangadi market on Thursday was Rs. 66 a kg as against Rs. 75 a kg a few weeks ago. The price of Robusta coffee (cleaned Robusta) was Rs. 117 as against Rs. 135. Last August, the prices were Rs. 80-85 and Rs .145-150.

Very little coffee had been available on the market from August to December, and the processing companies bought it up at higher prices, K. Salu, a coffee exporter at the Meenangadi market, said. The prices were artificial, with no relation with the international prices. Now there is parity with the global prices.

The Coffee Board’s post-monsoon estimate anticipated the yield from Wayanad as 54,100 tonnes in 2012-13 as against 58,300 tonnes during the corresponding period in the previous financial year. The total expected production of Robusta coffee in the State this year is 65,000 tones, including 8,350 tonnes from the Travancore region and 2,550 tonnes from Nelliampathy in Palakkad district.

But farming sources say the production may decline by 30-40 percent in many parts of Wayanad as the monsoon had been erratic during the flowering stage of coffee. The present price is remunerative only for large-scale planters as they can increase the production using expensive irrigation systems, such as sprinkler irrigation. But nearly 90 per cent of the coffee farmers belong to the small-scale sector.

Moreover, the dearth of workers during the peak season and increasing input costs, including the recent increase in prices of chemical fertilizers, rob the coffee industry of any cheer.