While growers’ organisations are estimating black pepper production to be around 60,000 tonnes for the current harvesting season, many growers are not in a hurry to sell their stock. In fact, some of them are expecting better prices for the commodity in the coming months to sell their produce.
Pepper prices are under pressure in the recent years on cheaper imports from countries such as Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Also a glut in Vietnam this year is seen adding to the price pressure. Harvesting of pepper, which is predominantly grown in the Western Ghats and coastal regions of Karnataka and Kerala is seen coming to an end.
Vishwanath KK, Co-ordinator of the Consortium of Pepper Growers’ Organisations, told BusinessLine that though the growers were estimating around 65,000-70,000 tonnes for the current season, they may end up harvesting around 55,000-60,000 tonnes.
On the reasons for this decline, he said pepper-growing regions in the country were hit by drought last year and the impact is being felt now at the time of harvest.
Now growers are cultivating pepper in irrigated areas, and any change in weather condition totally hampers the harvesting situation also, he said.
Patte Venugopal, a grower from Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, said that pepper production is restricted to two-thirds of last year’s output as far as coastal Karnataka is concerned.
Expressing a similar view, B Gopalakrishna Bhat, a pepper grower from Kasaragod district of Kerala, said that there was no rainfall in May last year, and the flowering was not that good in his area. This had affected pepper production. He opined that the production will be 30 per cent less compared to that of the previous year.
P Anantharamakrishna, a pepper grower from Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, said that the yield per plant might have come down by around 30-40 per cent in many cases during the current season, though there are exceptions where some growers managed the situation well. He attributed the weather conditions last year for this decline in yield.
No rush to market
Inspite of these, many growers are not in a hurry to dispose of their stock.
Stating that pepper is not a perishable commodity unlike other agri produces, Venugopal said some farmers stock it even for four-five years.
“I feel 40 per cent of the total production may come to the market, and farmers may hold back the rest,” he said, adding that they may release the remaining stock to the market over a period of time. Farmers are waiting for opportunities to dispose it off at a better price.
Bhat said that many growers may release pepper to the market at ₹450 a kg range.
Anantharamakrishna said that pepper is not the main crop for a majority of growers. It is an inter-crop in arecanut and coffee plantations. Many such growers wait for better prices before selling it off.
Vishwanath said that the Centre’s notification on March 21 prohibiting the import of black pepper below minimum import price of ₹500 a kg should help growers.
SR Satishchandra, President of the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd, had recently stated that the price of the commodity may reach around ₹400 a kg in the domestic market in the coming days.
Pepper ruled at ₹380 in the Kochi market on Thursday. Campco is also in the procurement, processing and marketing of pepper.