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Organic crops flourish at plantations

K.S. Sudhi
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Forest Department harvests no-manure coffee, pepper from taken-over estates

A coffee plantation at Nelliyampathy in Palakkad. –Photo: K.K. Mustafah
A coffee plantation at Nelliyampathy in Palakkad. –Photo: K.K. Mustafah

Fragrance of coffee is wafting from the Thuthampara estate at Nelliyampathy with the Forest Department harvesting naturally grown Robusta coffee beans from there.

No-manure farming has been tried on the 365-acre Thuthampara estate by the Nenmara Forest Development Agency. Similar attempts have been done on the 233-acre Rosary estate by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation. The department has taken over the Thuthampara estate after its lease period expired.

The decision to try farming without using manure is part of the landscape conservation project of the ecologically sensitive Nelliampathy area. The forest areas of Nelliampathy are home to lion-tailed macaque and giant hornbills. Landscape-level conservation would ensure restoration of ecology of the region, besides ensuring benefits from agricultural produce, says Raju Francis, Divisional Forest Officer, Nenmara.

“The harvesting of Robusta coffee, which began a week ago, is expected to yield at least 35 tonnes of dry beans. The plantation is also expected to yield organically grown pepper weighing around five tonne,” Mr. Francis says.

Discussions are progressing for completing organic certification of the produce by an international agency, which would fetch the produce at least a three-fold price in the international market, says N.K. Sasidharan, Chief Conservator of Forest (Eastern Circle). The department is also working on a project to establish a dairy farm in the estate, which would yield manure for future farming projects, he says.

Though the coffee grown in the area is rated as among the best in the country, no efforts have gone into obtaining the Geographical Indexing (GI) for it or for marketing it as a premium produce, says Mr. Francis. The organic as well as GI tag would ensure better price for the pepper and coffee beans.

The harvesting of organic pepper has started at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) also. It is here that the first attempt of organic farming by the department started some four years ago. The yield from the pepper vine planted at tribal hamlets is expected to reach 15 tonnes.

Though the produce could not be sold at the international market last time, they fetched good price when auctioned locally, says Sanjayankumar, Divisional Forest Officer, PTR East division. Organic produce now has more takers in the local markets also.

Organic pepper saw a price rise of 27% last year when compared to the previous auction. This time too, the auction is expected to bring good returns, he says.

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