Rains not a happy time for coffee crop output

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The delay in harvest because of unusual weather conditions and unpredictability on export incentives may obstruct the hard work of Indian coffee exporters from capitalising on the rising global coffee prices.

The prices across the world have recently begun to shoot up with International Coffee Organisation projecting a scarcity in the world coffee manufacturing because of rains and lesser shipments from prolonged low international coffee prices. In 2018-19, bad crops and plunge in international prices had slowed Indian coffee export by 9% over the previous year. Unseasonal rain in Karnataka, the biggest coffee-producing state in the country, has hindered arabica coffee harvest, which normally starts by the end of November.

“This will harm the crop output, which we already expect to be 30 to 35% short because of drought and delayed monsoon this year,’’ said MB Ganapathy, chairman of Karnataka Planters’ Association. Wet conditions, he said, can lead to a fungal infection resulting in a poor quality of the coffee. “While in some regions the coffee beans are yet to mature, in other places rains are causing ripe berries to split, which if not plucked, fall to the ground,’’ he said.

Coffee Board production estimate of arabica coffee in FY19 was 95,000 tonnes. However, the weather condition right now is not anticipated to hamper the plucking of robusta coffee beans, which is looked forward to start by mid-January.

Indian coffee exporters feel they may not be able to take advantage of the situation because of two reasons. “The crop is likely to be short and the export incentives under merchandise export of India scheme (MEIS), will end by December 31. It looks like another bad year for coffee export,’’ said Ramesh Rajah, president, Coffee Exporters Association. The MEIS is likely to be replaced next year by the remission of duties or taxes on the export product (RoDTEP), he said. “But we don’t know when will it be implemented,’’ he said. RoDTEP offers higher bank credit and insurance cover to exporters.