Rubber farmers take to coffee to supplement income

As farmers cope with plummeting income from natural rubber, coffee has turned out to be a choice crop, holding out promise of supplementing income as well as maximum utilisation of land area.

Most farmers are not entirely abandoning rubber cultivation, but they are now more and more taking up alternative crops as a measure to ensure that they survive these hard times, said Gibson George of Edakkattuvayal.

Mr. George has been through hard times as a farmer, cultivating vegetables, natural rubber, rice, and other crops. Of late, he has taken up coffee as an inter-crop along with a dozen others in his village. He feels that depending on rubber alone now will not mean much.

He said he had been trying out several other crops along with natural rubber and had been on the lookout for a crop that suited to the present climatic conditions.

A.C. Kuriakose of Peppathy near Piravom said he too had been on the lookout for a crop. Coffee has been a good choice, he feels. The first 300 plants are in place now, he said, adding that as an inter-crop coffee should do well along with natural rubber.

Mr. Kuriakose said he had been cultivating rice, vegetables, and tapioca along with rubber. But the recent fall in prices of natural rubber has had a devastating impact on the income of small-scale farmers like him.

The coffee variety being chosen by him and others has been locally developed and is suited to the climatic conditions. “They can flourish under the shade of the rubber plants,” said Roy Anthony of Wayanad, who was responsible for developing the Arabica variety and popularising it.

He added that farmers were quite happy with the results, and the plants flowered within around 18 months. They can be a good inter-crop, as farmers try to enhance their income utilising the available land. Coffee plants can grow in the shade and bring out good yields, whereas cocoa and other crops need more sunlight, he said.

Printable version | May 11, 2021 3:16:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/rubber-farmers-take-to-coffee-to-supplement-income/article32084848.ece

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