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By Fakir Balaji
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 (13:17:56)
Tags : India Business News, India Coffee Industry News, United Planters' Association of Southern India, Decline in Coffee Productivity in Last Decade in India

Decline in Indian coffee productivity levels alarming: Upasi

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Coonoor (Tamil Nadu), Sep 14: The United Planters' Association of Southern India (Upasi) has expressed concern over the alarming decline in productivity levels of coffee during the last decade.

"The magnitude of decline in our coffee productivity levels is quite alarming, as yields have declined 9.9 percent since 2000," outgoing Upasi president T.V. Alexander told the media here.

The yield per hectare of Arabica beans slumped 16.2 percent while that of Robusta 7.2 percent in the three coffee-producing states of southern India - Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

"With 766 kg per hectare in 2008, our productivity level is not only lower than the world average of 847 kg per hectare, but also 2.6 times lower than a young coffee country like Vietnam (1,989 kg/hectare) and 1.6 times (1,259 kg/hectare) lower than Brazil," Alexander said at the apex body's 117th annual conference today.

A study of coffee plantations across the three states noted that to augment productivity, growers have to improve plant material, replanting of senile plantations, especially of Arabica with new varieties and use superior pesticides to control the dreaded white stem borer insect pest.

The study revealed productivity declined to 796 kg/hectare during 2005-10 from 883 kg/hectare during 2000-2005, with Arabica falling to 601 kg/hectare from 717 kg/hectare and Robusta to 951 kg/hectare from 1,025 kg/hectare in the five-year period.

Among the three states, Karnataka is the largest coffee producer, accounting for 205,700 tonnes (post-monsoon estimate) in fiscal 2009-10, followed by Kerala with 59,250 tonnes and Tamil Nadu 19,250 tonnes.

With non-traditional areas such as Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and the northeastern region contributing 5,300 tonnes, the total coffee production was 289,600 tonnes, including 284,300 tonnes from south India.

Though the state-run Coffee Board initially projected the 2009-10 crop to cross the 300,000-tonne mark (306,000 tonnes), unusual weather in the last quarter (October-December) of 2009 resulted in heavy loss of Arabica berries, forcing the board to revise the post-monsoon estimates downwards to about 290,000 tonnes, with Arabica production at 95,000 tonnes (33 percent) and Robusta at 195,00 tonnes (67 percent).

"The unusual rains in Karnataka also adversely affected coffee processing operations such as drying the beans leading to poor output. Blossoming of Robusta plants reduced to 50-60 percent," Alexander recalled.

Upasi has sought a scientific assessment of the damage due to unseasonal rains and causes for declining productivity levels.

"In response to our representation on the plight of small growers who account for 95 percent of planters, the government has started implementing the coffee debt relief package, with a financial implication of Rs.241 crore," Alexander pointed out.

The 2010 package bails out a total of 78,665 growers in the three states, including 74,929 small growers (95 percent) as they will get the benefit of waiver and rescheduling of balance amount of bank loans availed so far.

"It is for the first time that the government has come forward with such a debt relief package to address the problems of coffee growers, especially majority of those who hold less than two-three hectares of lands," union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in Bangalore on Sep 10 while implementing the scheme.

To minimise the impact of climate change, erratic monsoons and other vagaries of weather, the government has extended the coffee rainfall insurance to cover losses incurred to un-seasonal rains during the harvesting period (November-February) of this fiscal (2010-11), with a graded pack depending on the intensity of damage.

"Coffee Rainfall Insurance is one of its first kinds in the world over, offering protection to growers against the weather risk. It has been expanded from deficit blossom, backing showers and heavy rains during the monsoon period to post-monsoon period," Sharma noted.

During 2010, the insurance scheme has covered 15,790 coffee growers, with a total premium collection of Rs.2 crore, of which 50 percent is the subsidy component from the central government. (IANS)