A Correspondent

KATTAPPANA: The sudden fall in the prices of pepper from Rs. 116 pre kg two weeks back to Rs. 95 per kg is likely to affect farmers who are in the middle of the harvest season.

Farmers attribute the fall in production due to an unfavourable climatic conditions and to the decline in the total area of pepper cultivation in the district.

Sources in the market say that the prices are unlikely to jump in the current season as no major demand order from foreign countries has been received. However, businessmen here say that the prices will slowly move to reach above Rs 100.

“Both farmers and businessmen are in a state of shock following the price fall,” said Johnykutty, a pepper businessman here.

According to the estimate of the Agriculture Department, the area under cultivation of pepper fell from 84,220 hectares in 2005-’06 to 65,333 hectares in 2007-’08. The production has fallen from 52,063 tonnes to 23,311 tonnes during the period.

Farmers say that the official production estimate is far below than that of the actual figure.

The diminishing fertility of soil, failure in replanting and wilt diseases affecting the plants have resulted in the fall in total production.

According to A. S. Suresh, a small scale planter, a price below Rs 150 a kg for pepper will result in heavy loss to the farmer. He said that the highest price for pepper recently was in 2001-’02, when a kg of pepper fetched Rs. 250 and above. The small and medium level farmers are in a dilemma as they cannot stock the produce expecting a price rise and are unable sell it at the present price suffering a heavy loss.

N.V.Mani, another farmer, said that one has to bear the cost of wages and other expenses and cannot afford to keep the produce even at the lowest price.