With only a few weeks left for coffee harvest, the uncertainties prevailing in the coffee industry have cast a shadow on thousands of farmers in the State.
A sharp decline in the price of the produce, climatic vagaries, increasing input costs, dearth of workers, lack of support from the government and Coffee Board, and skyrocketing price of fertilizers are the major concerns of the farmers.
The spot price for a kg of Robusta coffee beans in Wayanad market on Saturday was Rs.96 a kg as against the Rs.147 a kg during the corresponding period last year, K. Salu, a coffee dealer and secretary of the Kerala Coffee Processors and Dealers Association, said.
The fall in price was on par with international markets, but it was not fully reflected in Indian market owing to the fall in rupee, he said. A bumper coffee production this year in major coffee producing countries such as Brazil and Vietnam was another reason for the price fall, he said.
Coffee harvesting in Brazil had almost been completed and harvesting in Vietnam had just begun, he said. The price of coffee beans had touched Rs.153 a kg in October last year, Mr. Salu said.
Traders expect a production of 40,000 tonnes of Robusta coffee from the district this year as against the 44, 000 tonnes last year. Trading sources are expecting a 20 per cent fall in production this season owing to the heavy rain during blossom.
According to the data of the Coffee Board, cultivation is spread over 84,931 hectares in the State, including 67,366 hectares in Wayanad district, 12,915 hectares in the southern districts, and 4,650 hectares in Nelliampathy in Palakkad district.
The total production of coffee in the country in 2012-13 fiscal was 3,15,500 tonnes, including 1,00,225 tonnes of Arabica and 2, 15,275 tonnes of Robusta. In Robusta production, 30 per cent was grown in Kerala. The average coffee production in the State was 65,000 metric tonnes annually of which a major share, nearly 55,000 metric tonnes, came from Wayanad district alone, the data said.
Coffee cultivation was not a lucrative business now, as various factors were adversely affecting the industry, Prasanth Rajesh, president, Wayanad Coffee Growers Association, said. The coffee sector in the State was facing acute crisis owing to the alleged negligence from the part of the government and Coffee Board, he said.
The blossom shower and back up showers were the major factors determining the production. As many of the farmers were holding below one hectare, modern irrigation systems such as drip and sprinkler irrigation was far away from their reach and a small change in climate would adversely affect their family budget.
Though the Coffee Board had implemented a Coffee Rainfall Insurance, a scheme to help growers in risk management during excessive or scanty rainfall, most of the farmers kept away from it as the payout from the scheme was far below the actual crop loss, Mr. Rajesh said.