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Coffee exports expected to touch all-time high

Special Correspondent
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‘Response from growers to Coffee Board's subsidy scheme not up to expectations'

Chairman of the Coffee Board Jawaid Akhtar (left), chairman of the Karnataka Planters' Association K.M. Nanaiah and chairman, Coffee Committee, UPASI, Shaji Philip, at a conference in Bangalore on Wednesday. — Photo: K. Gopinathan
Chairman of the Coffee Board Jawaid Akhtar (left), chairman of the Karnataka Planters' Association K.M. Nanaiah and chairman, Coffee Committee, UPASI, Shaji Philip, at a conference in Bangalore on Wednesday. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

The modernisation of coffee plantations, especially through the induction of mechanised techniques, is vital for the “long-term sustainability of the industry,” said Jawaid Akhtar, chairman, Coffee Board, on Wednesday.

Delivering the keynote address at the annual Coffee Conference organised by the United Planters' Association of South India (UPASI) and the Karnataka Planters' Association, Mr. Akhtar said: “Increasing productivity is of utmost significance because Indian coffee production has remained stagnant.”

Mr. Akhtar urged planters to replant “uneconomic” plantations by adopting appropriate “planting architecture.” Mr. Akhtar said coffee exports were likely to touch “an all-time high during the current year. Permits for coffee exports amounting to 1.81 lakh tonnes had already been issued by the end of October, which is about 80 per cent of the target set for the year, Mr. Akhtar said. Last year, India exported 2.04 lakh tonnes of coffee, valued at $ 442.81 million (Rs. 2,167 crore). “The response from growers to the board's subsidy scheme for improving productivity has been not been as good as we expected,” Mr. Akhtar said.

In the expectation that the Indo-ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Free Trade Agreement, which was signed last year, may have an adverse impact on Indian robusta prices, Mr. Akhtar said the board had submitted to the Government a “modified scheme” of subsidies. He also urged the growers to opt for insurance against unseasonal rains.

Mr. Akhtar said the Coffee Board had designed a “scorecard” for robusta coffee, based on factors such as strength, neutrality, softness, mouth feel and other parameters, which was being considered for adoption by the International Coffee Organisation.

The board's recent survey of domestic consumption showed that southern India accounted for almost 80 per cent of the total consumption. While consumption in the non-southern markets had grown at 3.5 per cent per annum between 2003 and 2009, consumption in south India had grown at the rate of 6 per cent, Mr. Akhtar said.

He urged the industry to focus on the non-south Indian markets for growth in the future. “Increased domestic consumption can act as a buffer against price fluctuations in the global market,” he said.

The debt relief package for coffee growers, which cost the Union Government Rs. 241 crore, had been particularly beneficial for small growers, Mr. Akhtar said.

“Never before have small growers got the benefit of a loan waiver,” Mr. Akhtar remarked. More than 78,000 growers had benefited from the package, he added.

C.N. Nataraj, president, UPASI, said although the coffee industry was going through a prolonged slump, “it is not going to be like this forever.”

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