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India - Excess rains to dampen coffee output this year

The latest wet spell triggered by a low pressure in the Arabian Sea is set to add to the crop losses of coffee growers in the key producing States of Karnataka and Kerala, which are already reeling under the impact of erratic rainfall this year. This is even as the early ripened beans of the arabica variety are ready for harvest across the major growing districts of Chikmagaluru and Kodagu in Karnataka.

While growers see a sharp production decline for the 2019-20 season, the state-run Coffee Board is still in the process of surveying the crop size.

Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, the crop has been facing setbacks due to the erratic weather pattern. If the uneven blossom showers impacted the flowering and the crop setting in the early part of the year, the unusual high temperatures during the summer — that led to a flare-up in white stem borer infestation — also hit the crop. Further, the unprecedented and continuous heavy rains in August-September triggered wet feet conditions and also led to berry droppings.

With the latest spell of rains, the crop losses could be as high as 30-35 per cent this year, said Shirish Vijayendra, Vice-Chairman of the Karnataka Planters Association (KPA). Karnataka accounts for about 70 per cent of the country’s output. The Board had estimated the 2018-19 crop at 3.19 lakh tonnes, of which 95,000 was arabicas, with robustas accounting for the rest.

“It is not just the berry dropping in arabicas that’s hurting the output. The leaf shedding triggered by the wet spell in robustas, that will eventually lead to the drying up of beans on the branches without ripening, will also have an impact on the overall crop size,” Vijayendra added.

Berry droppings

Upasi Chairman AL RM Nagappan said it is too early to comment on the crop size as it is still raining in the producing regions. “There has been an impact on the crop size due to the berry droppings. A clearer picture will emerge once the rains stop,” he said. The Met has forecast continuous rains over the next few days. Till date in October, Chikmagaluru has received 122 per cent excess rains, while Hassan and Kodagu have received a surplus of 73 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, according to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre. The South-West monsoon was surplus by 22 per cent in Chikmagalur, 56 per cent in Hassan and 8 per cent in Kodagu.

UM Thirth Mallesh, President of the Karnataka Growers Federation, which mostly represents the small growers in the State, said the crop damages due to excess rains are to the tune of 45-50 per cent. This is based on the federation’s assessment of the crop and interaction with growers across the three districts, he said.

N Bose Mandanna, a large grower in Suntikoppa, said the rains have interrupted operations such as spraying, weeding and manuring, which will again hit yields. He said growers of early harvested arabicas are facing issues in drying the beans. The full scale harvest of arabicas is set to begin from early November.

Source – https://www.thehindubusinessline.com

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