Coffee farmers in the country should think innovatively and create additional revenue streams to make the growing process more sustainable and profitable, urged the Coffee Board.
According to the board, in addition to traditional intercropping of pepper and cardamom, coffee growers can try multiple options such as planting exotic fruit-bearing trees, growing food crops or getting into fish and dairy farming, apiary or green tourism to increase incomes from their coffee gardens.
“To continue in coffee and make it sustainable, growers should focus on creating additional revenue streams through inter-cropping or through innovative measures,’’ K.G. Jagadeesha, CEO and Secretary, Coffee Board told The Hindu,
Citing the example of Arasu, a progressive farmer from Thandikudi in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Jagadeesha said, this farmer planted plenty of avocado trees in the coffee farm and sold tonnes of avocados at farm-gate for a price of ₹150 to ₹₹200 a kg last year. In fact, avocados fetched him more money than coffee and pepper did that year.
B.H. Mohankumar from Sakleshpur, an advocate of sustainable farming, grows a wide variety of fruit trees, including mangostin and avocados amidst his coffee plants.
“I am amazed to see the enthusiasm some of our coffee farmers are already showing in making their plantations sustainable and profitable by opening multiple channels of revenue. This is the way to go to create stable and extra incomes from coffee plantations,’’ Mr. Jagadeesha urged.
Coffee gardens could also double up as ideal green and eco getaways, experiential tourism locations and home stays, he added.
However, he cautioned, this has to be done with extreme responsibility and ample sensitivity. Coffee plantations are situated in eco-sensitive zones. For instance, while some 35% of Western Ghats is protected by governments as reserve forests, some 65% is with private players under coffee cultivation.
In addition, growers have to take coffee to a different level to rake in maximum profit from it, the Coffee Board CEO said.
Shade and terrain made Indian coffee the world’s best, compared to coffees grown mostly on flat lands in Brazil and Vietnam.
“Most of our coffees are special and some of our coffees are already commanding a 30% price premium in London and New York markets. We should market more of our coffees in speciality markets and not in the commodities markets and this will help us easily climb up the value chain by at least 3X,’’ he added.
However, he said India’s coffee productivity was low compared to the international average due to lack of sunlight and other climatic conditions. Also, the cost of production was also high due to tough terrains where mechanisation is restricted.
India’s arabica productivity is one-third that of the global average and robusta productivity is half of the world average, as per Coffee Board.