The spread of COVID-19 at an alarming rate in Italy, a major importer of Indian Robusta coffee, has cast a shadow over the lives of small-scale coffee growers in Wayanad, a major Robusta coffee producing region in the State.
“India has been producing an average of 2.24 lakh tonnes of Robusta coffee every year, of which nearly 1.10 lakh tonnes are consumed domestically. Italy is the largest Robusta coffee buyer from the country and they import around 65,000 tonnes of Indian Robusta variety every year,” Prasanth Rajesh, president, Wayanad Coffee Growers’ Association, said. According to reports, the pandemic has put Italy in a crisis.
The price of the produce before the outbreak of the disease was the lowest in the market in the past 10 years and the farmers fear that the crisis would worsen the situation. “For the past two years, floods took away the sheen from the sector and this time, with Italy affected due to COVID-19, things are not that good,” Mr. Rajesh said.
According to data available with the Coffee Board, Kerala produced 68,225 tonnes of Robusta coffee during 2018-19, of which Wayanad contributed 58,450 tonnes.
Robusta coffee is cultivated on 67,366 hectares in Wayanad and 59,621 farmers are dependent on the sector. Moreover, nearly 97 per cent of them are small scale growers, Mr. Rajesh said.
The productivity in Wayanad is declining too.
“We have been asking the Central government for setting up a price stabilisation fund to meet the unforeseen crisis of farmers. It is yet to materialise,” Mr. Rajesh said.
There were weather insurance schemes for the crop till 2016, but coffee was excluded from the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana scheme a few years ago, Mr. Rajesh said.