India coffee output hit by rains

Industry also affected by rising wage, input costs

India’s arabica coffee production will drop by 30% and robusta by 20% this harvest season ending January on account of excessive rainfall, plant damage, bean splitting and berry dropping, as per data provided by the planters’ community.

According to Coffee Board’s post-monsoon estimates, arabica production in India was expected to be 99,000 metric tons and robusta 2.35 lakh metric tons in the current crop year.

However, continuous rains from September had resulted in causing significant damage to coffee plantations, reducing yields in arabica (30%) and robusta (20%), said Karnataka Planters’ Association (KPA) that represents more than 80% of coffee growers in the country.

“Excessive rainfall played spoilsport for coffee plantations across the country. Because of early blossom showers in February, the crop was ready for harvest in October itself, instead of November. A large volume of berries are spitting open or falling down now before they are harvested,’’ said KPA chairman S. Appadurai.

Cost of production rises

Also, the cost of coffee production has been rising 10%-15% annually as wage and input costs were on a constant rise. Production cost per acre of arabica was in the ₹50,000-₹55,000 range some three years ago and now it has increased to ₹85,000/per acre. The cost of production for robusta too rose from ₹30,000 to ₹60,000/per acre, as per KPA.

Due to vagaries of nature and plant loss due to white-stem borer disease, the yield has also come down significantly. For instance, per acre arabica plantation currently offers only 200 to 250 kg of coffee as against 400 to 500 kg a few years ago. Some 450 to 500 kg of robusta coffee is grown per acre compared to 600 kg earlier.

Brazilian frost

The Brazilian frost-brought supply shortage and price surge in the international coffee markets came as a respite for Indian coffee growers who have been reeling under existential crises.

As a result, arabica prices have moved up to ₹12,500 to ₹13,000 per 50 kg bag from ₹9,000 to ₹9,500 in the last coffee season. However, the price of robusta continues to stay in the ₹6,000 per 50 kg range.

“We expect this price trend to continue throughout the season without any drastic fluctuation until the major chunk of our crop is shipped by March next year,’’ said Ramesh Rajah, president, Coffee Exporters Association of India.

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