Indian coffee production, quality can be affected by seasonal rains.

Unseasonal rains in recent days are likely to spoil celebrations for coffee growers in Karnataka and Kerala, even as robust prices are at record highs due to supplies from Vietnam. Farmers said the current rainy season not only delayed harvesting and coffee drying, but also damaged the prospects for next year’s robust crop by triggering early flowering. “This is bad enough. The Arabica harvest is not yet ready. Because of these rains, everything is downhill,” said A Nanda Belliapp, president of Kodagu Planters Association. These rains can also trigger bean cracking and dropping in Arabica and early flowering in about 20 to 25 percent of Robusta areas, where harvest may be affected because the crop cannot be harvested at flowering. It would also reduce the prospects for next year’s crop if there are no good background rains, Belliapp said. “About 20 percent of the Arabica crop and 35 to 40 percent of Robusta were damaged in Kodagu,” Belliappa said. Kodagu is the largest coffee producing region of the country.

Double Whammy

Unseasonal rainfall was quite widespread in Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan and Wayanad districts. According to the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre, Chikkmagaluru district received 21 mm, Hassan 31 mm and Kodagu 17 mm from January 1 to 8 against the usual 1 mm of rain. “Adverse weather wreaks havoc. It is a double whammy for farmers as it affects the current and next year’s crop,” said Mahesh Shashidhar, former president of the Karnataka Planters’ Association. Apart from weather conditions, labor shortage also adds to the pain for farmers. Coffee prices, especially robusta, are near record levels and farmers may not be able to take full advantage of prevailing price trends due to adverse weather conditions. 4,444 4,444 Robusta parchment farm prices for the new crop are hovering around ₹ 11,000 per 50 kg bag, up 32 percent from ₹ 8,300 a year ago. Similarly, robusta cherry prices are in the range of ₹ 6,600 to ₹ 6,800, up 57 percent from ₹ 4,200 to ₹ 4,250 last year.

Discoloration threat

While Arabica parchment prices are almost at the same level as last year at ₹ 13,700-13,900, Arabica cherry has increased by ₹ 1,000 to ₹ 7,750-7,8750 per bag. Robusta is a widely produced variety in India, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total production of about 3.5 million tons. “The rains disrupted the harvesting and drying process,” said Prashant Rajesh, Director of Wayanad Coffee Growers Association. Wayanad is the largest coffee growing region of Kerala and produces mostly the robusta variety, with about 25 percent of the bean collection completed. “Due to seasonal rains, the coffee lying in the drying gardens is at risk of discoloration. Impressive coffee can turn gray compared to the normal yellow beans. Prices are good this year, but farmers may not get the full harvest as the rains affect yield and quality

Big Farmer Bose Mandanna said the coffee drying facilities are full as the drying process has slowed down considerably due to unseasonal rains. Grown in the shade of other trees, Indian coffees are mostly sun-dried, which gives them a unique quality and taste. The Coffee Board has set the 2023-2024 annual harvest for the period 2023-24. October 3.74 lakh tonnes, which includes 2.61 lakh tonnes of robusta and 1.13 lakh tonnes of arabica as per post-monsoon estimates.

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