To boost pepper cultivation in Tamil Nadu, the Spices Board has proposed to the State Horticulture Mission a project to increase the area under the crop.
While the total area under cultivation now is 9,300 acres, the proposal aims at touching 9,900 acres over the next four years.
According to board secretary P. M. Sureshkumar, Tamil Nadu is a potential area (high productivity zone) for pepper cultivation. The State has the scope for improving production and expanding the area under pepper. It is cultivated as a mixed crop in coffee and tea plantations in Gudalur, Valparai, Yercaud, Kolli Hills, lower Palani hills, Bodi west hills, Agamalai, Megamalai, Pechipparai, Maramalai, Asambu Hills, and Pothigai Hills.
Apart from tea and coffee plantations, areas under cardamom, coconut, cloves, orange and areca nut cultivation could be tapped to raise pepper as an intercrop.
Though the original project period was for five years from 2010-2011 to 2014-2015, it is now revised to four years (2013-14 to 2016-17). This is an integrated project to be taken up at a total cost of Rs. 48 crore, with Rs. 15.03 crore as assistance. A similar project has been taken up at Idukki in Kerala. Funds are from the National Horticulture Mission and the areas identified for it are: the Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Salem, Namakkal, Villupuram, Dindigul, Theni, Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts.
The proposal envisages replanting, new planting, integrated pest management, planting material production, organic inputs production, and mechanisation.