Heavy rains in Hassan and Chikkamagaluru — the coffee belt of Karnataka — for the last 45 days have left planters worried.
In some parts, coffee plants have shown signs of black rot disease causing heavy droppings of beans. If the rains continue for a few more days, farmers fear no returns for their investment and hard work for the year.
To make matters worse, pepper has also been badly hit. If the roots start decaying, the plants die and growers are already facing the heat owing to fall in price of pepper in the market.
B.B. Ningaiah, former Minister and native of Mudigere, told The Hindu that up to 25% of the crop was lost in the taluk. “Farmers are hopeful that they can somehow safeguard the remaining crop if rains stop. But, there are no signs of a break,” said Mr. Ningaiah, a postgraduate in economics. Every day, he said, he has been listening to growers share their tales of crop loss with him.
There has been no study to assess the quantum of loss suffered by the growers in this region. D.H. Srinivas, Deputy Director of Coffee Board, said that the officers of the board were busy assessing the impact of heavy rains on coffee plantations.
All the four districts of Malnad region in the State have received excess rainfall this year. Hassan recorded the highest of 68% excess rainfall between June 1 and July 25. The Hassan District Planters’ Association (HDPA) has urged the State government to waive off loans of coffee growers completely. C.S. Mahesh, HDPA president, said: “We have not seen such rains in the last 20 years. Coffee planters are not hopeful of any returns this year.”
Nearly five lakh families are into coffee growing in the three districts of Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan. Besides that, more than 15 lakh workers are dependent on coffee plantations for their living. “A family with 10 acres of coffee plantation grows only coffee, and even in a normal year, it would earn not more than ₹60,000. In the recent years, pepper has improved the earnings. Now, the price of both pepper and coffee is down. And the rains have also damaged the crop,” said Prasad Raxidi, a coffee planter at Raxidi near Sakleshpur.