India is producing less coffee. Here's why

Extreme weather events in August 2018 in coffee producing areas of Kerala and Karnataka led to a dip of around 20 per cent in the total coffee production

By Jitendra
Published: Friday 04 January 2019

Extreme weather events and depressed international coffee prices have hit coffee growers in India. South Indian states like Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu—which contribute 80 per cent of the country’s total coffee production—have suffered extreme weather events in the last few years impacting coffee production.

Extreme rainfall causing heavy flood and large-scale landslides in August 2018 in coffee producing areas of Kerala and Karnataka led to a dip of around 20 per cent in the total coffee production.

“There is going to be around 63,000 tonnes lesser coffee in 2018-19,” says a senior official at Coffee Board of India, on condition of anonymity.

MB Abhimanyu Kumar, member, Coffee Board of India, says the Board has done a survey but not released any report regarding dip in production.

“Devastation is still visible on the ground, which shows loss of crops and further dip in production. The assessment of a 20 per cent dip in production was done by independent market researchers, not by the Board itself,” says Kumar.

India had record production of coffee in 2015-16—producing 348,000 tonnes of coffee. However, since then, the output has been declining. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, the production was 312,000 tonnes and 316,000 tonnes respectively. Extreme floods and landslides are predicted to further cause a dip in production to the tune of 253,000 tonnes.

Coffee-producing South Indian states have been witnessing a series of extreme weather events in the last four years. The frequency of dry spells during rainy season has increased, resulting in deficit monsoon and droughts.

“The deficit rainfall and rise in temperatures led to lesser coffee production in the country,” says Saleela Patkar, a Kodagu-based organic coffee grower.

Extreme weather events have not only led to a decrease in coffee production but have also impacted the premier coffee market.

“Premier quality of coffee is grown in specific regions where the climate allows it to ripen on time. But uneven rainfall and rising temperatures led to deterioration in the quality of the beans,” says Pawankumar Reddy, a Hyderabad-based coffee trader, who is also engaged in export-import of premier coffee from Ethiopia.

International market scenario

Besides climate change, international market has also raised serious concern. Prices are quite depressed, leading farmers to not invest in coffee plantation.

“Four to five years back, we used to get Rs 22,000 per quintal of coffee but now it has reduced to Rs 12,000/quintal,” says Kumar.

In spite of price depression, global coffee production has increased over the previous year. The estimated amount of coffee produced in 2018-19 was around 174.5 million bags—which was 158.9 million bags in the previous year. One bag is equivalent to 60 kilogrammes of coffee.

The global increase is primarily due to the increase in production in Colombia and Vietnam. Brazil, the world leader in coffee production, is likely to produce less coffee, down from 63 million bags to 55 million bags.

Experts explain that over the last four years, Brazillian farmers have been receiving the lowest amount for their produce which discouraged them from investing in coffee farms.

According to a Bloomberg market analyst, coffee prices will increase to $1.24 per pound (Rs 192 per kg) in 2019. In the previous years, farmers have been receiving below the average price of around $ 1.15 per pound (Rs 178 per kg).

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