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India - Crop loss in Karnataka cannot even be gauged yet

Production of plantation crops, including coffee, pepper and cardamom, which was initially expected to be good this season in the State, is set for a steep decline as rainfall that has battered Kodagu, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru has caused large-scale damage to crops.

While the Coffee Board declined to estimate the losses citing lack of field data, planters’ association has estimated crop losses at above 70%.

Incessant rainfall and subsequent increase in moisture has led to drop of coffee berries and damage to pepper vines and cardamom plants in the three major coffee growing districts in the State. In Kodagu, landslides have caused severe damage to estates. Moisture has threatened spread of fungal diseases, including black rot, that could further affect the standing crop. The Coffee Board, which traditionally puts out the initial production estimate, has not come up with the data this year as yet since the field data collection has been hampered by rainfall over the last fortnight. Incidentally, Karnataka produced 2.22 lakh tonnes or 70% of the total coffee grown in the country during 2017, but this figure could see a steep decline this year.

While the Karnataka Planters’ Association has put the crop loss to above 70% that could turn into a loss of about Rs. 1,500 crore to Rs. 2,000 crore, including damages to estates, the Karnataka Growers’ Federation has pegged the losses at about Rs. 2,000 crore. “Crop loss assessment will be taken up after the rescue and relief work is completed,” a Coffee Board official said. Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy at a press conference said that the State cannot immediately seek compensation for plantation crops, including coffee, pepper, cardamom and areca, since assessment has to be done and a comprehensive report has to be submitted.

“When the season started, planters were cheerful and we were also hopeful of a good crop this year. The industry expected higher production than what was reported last year. However, initial production assessment could not be completed since rainfall came in the way and now the crop loss owing to flooding and rainfall,” a senior official said.

“After the blossom, hopes were that coffee planters would get good yield at least better than the last two years. However, things changed rapidly in the last three weeks and now we are not even sure if the berries will last till November owing to moisture,” a planter in Somwarpet said.

According to another official, it may take some time before the crop loss is gauged. “We will have to undertake survey of estates along with revenue officials after rescue and relief work is completed,” the official said.

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