2023 was a mixed year for the tree plantation sector, with prices recovering for some crops: Upasi.

2023 was a volatile year for the tree planting sector: the prices of paprika and cardamom rose, the prices of coffee remained, but at a lower level compared to last year. According to C Shreedharan, president of the United Planters’ Association of South India (Upasi), it was a completely different scenario for tea and rubber, whose prices fell sharply and were below the cost of production.

Excess supply

The main reason for the drop in tea prices was a global headwind oversupply in the world market relative to export demand, while it is facilitated by several factors such as a reduction in Chinese consumer demand, lower oil prices and global economic emergencies 

On tea, he said India’s production was 3.28 million kilograms (mkg) lower at 1,163.06 million kilograms by October 2023. South India’s production during that period was slightly higher at 1.44 million kg and estimated at 197.44 million kg. South Indian production in 2023 is estimated to be approximately 230-235 mkg. Tea exports decreased by 8.19 mkg. Exports from South India decreased marginally by 1.38 million kilograms, while exports from North India decreased by 6.81 million kilograms. The main reason was the decrease in exports to Iran, when the volume of exports decreased from 18.64 million to 3.77 million kilograms in 2023. Similarly, Russian imports from India decreased by 5.51 million kilograms and from the United Arab Emirates at 4.42 million kilograms. Steam loss in 2022-23 is estimated at 3.96 liters compared to 4.14 liters last year.

According to the president of Kumissa Upas, domestic production in 2022-23 was estimated at 8.39 liters, while consumption would be 13.50 liters. In the current year 2023-24, according to the forecasts of the Rubber Board, the production is estimated to be higher at 8.70 liters, while the consumption is 14.1 liters. Natural rubber prices fell 8 percent to ₹149.39/kg in 2023 from ₹162.21/kg in 2022. The price drop was influenced by the decline in demand from China, a large consumer of rubber, the drop in oil prices and the global economic crisis.

Weather facilitates recovery

Small production of cardamom for 2022-23 has been estimated at 24,464 tonnes, which is 1,123 tonnes more than the previous year. However, the 2023-24 production initially fell by 30-40 percent due to a severe lack of rain at the beginning of the southwest monsoon season, as the amount of rainfall in June-August was almost 60 percent less. . In the cardamom growing areas of Kerala. However, the second part of the southwest monsoon, which began in September, followed by a decent descent of the northeast monsoon, helped the harvest outlook, and the latest estimate is that production would be equal to last year or slightly higher. 

The estimate of the Spices Board for production of black pepper in 2022-2023 was 64,000 tons. However, production is expected to recover in 2023-24 as the weather favored better growing environments and more pepper was imported from new areas. In January-November 2023, the average price was ₹ 554.70/kg.

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