Kerala

Crop decay, low prices worrying cocoa farmers in Idukki

Crop decay due to various diseases and low market price are worrying cocoa farmers in the district.

Cocoa is usually cultivated as an inter-crop. Due to the low level of care required for the plant and harvest almost throughout the year, many farmers have chosen it as the main inter-crop.

Cocoa farmers in Vellathooval, Rajakumari, Senapathy, Rajakkad and Santhanpara grama panchayats are facing a crisis as the crop in the early stages of growth decay or dry up, resulting in a decline in the total production.

Johny Varghese, a farmer at Santhanpara, said that the fruits (pods) decaying or drying up before they ripen was not a new phenomenon. However, with the start of this monsoon season, the disease has started affecting the plants severely and the use of pesticides had little impact, he said.

Mr. Varghese said that the farmers got little help from the Agriculture Department, either in identifying the causes of the disease or in providing compensation. He said that this was since the cocoa farmers were an unorganised lot, unlike pepper or coffee farmers.

He said that production has declined to one third since the start of the monsoon.

The farmers also complained that the prevailing market price was very low. The average price has come down from Rs. 50 to Rs. 40 and below.

K.B. Kunjumon, another farmer, said that he had destroyed cocoa plants in nearly four acres of land, where it was cultivated as an inter-crop between coffee and pepper, as the cultivation was non-remunerative. Moreover, he said, the disease spread to other plants also.

He said that the government should take steps to conduct a study into the causes of the disease and come out with a solution. The lack of a procurement agency is another cause for concern.

Mr. Kunjumon said that this season the number of fruits per plant was high, but the disease damaged the crops in large areas.

In Mankulam grama panchayat, where organic cocoa is cultivated in a large area, farmers said that though they used to receive better prices, now the procuring agencies are offering lower prices. Farmers said that even with the low care required for the plant and lower labour costs for harvesting, cocoa cultivation has become non-remunerative.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:38:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/Crop-decay-low-prices-worrying-cocoa-farmers-in-Idukki/article16131996.ece

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