KOCHI: The United Planters’ Association of Southern India (Upasi) has said that all plantation crops - tea, coffee, rubber and spices- are currently passing through an unusually difficult phase, with the basic problems of low commodity prices combined with high cost of production owing to low productivity of labour & land, further complicated by climate change .
Upasi outgoing president T Jayaraman said at the 125th annual conference of the association at Connoor that the current tea crop prospects for south India, is not encouraging, with Jan-Aug production being 22 million kg lower than last year. Heavy crop losses are being reported in most tea growing regions due to the very heavy south west monsoon, he said. .
Coffee production in India, during the ensuing season, is expected to slump to its lowest level in the last three decades; heavy rains, floods and landslides, in the main coffee growing areas in Karnataka and Kerala, have caused severe damage and the Coffee Board has estimated a reduction of 85,000 tons.
The production of natural rubber in India has shown progressive decline primarily due to un-remunerative prices. Low prices have been driving farmers to stop tapping or abandon rubber cultivation. The production in the current year has been severely impacted with the heavy rains in Kerala. Rubber board has estimated a loss of 125,000 tons against last year as heavy rains have flooded many of the rubber farms and the threat of fungal diseases looms large
Cardamom growing areas in Kerala were also severely affected by the heavy rains and it is estimated that the crop would be lower by about 50% this year. Large areas of cardamom were damaged due to huge fallen trees and fungal infections. Cardamom prices should remain firm due to the huge shortage in production in both India and Guatemala.
India's pepper production was 64,000 tons during 2017-18. Again, pepper production this year will be severely impacted due to the heavy rains and is estimated to be only 50% of last year’s production resulting in a production loss of around 30,000 tons.
He said funding of R&D requirements would be a critical help to the industry at a time of crises. While government of India funds 100% of all R&D activities for the coffee, rubber and spices boards, in the case of tea, funding is to the extent of 49% and restricted only to certain heads of expenditure. He requested the government to continue current funding and to elevate the funding status for tea on par with the other commodity boards.