Pepper production may rise marginally by 4%

Written by Rajesh Ravi | Kochi | Updated: Nov 19 2009, 04:53am hrs
Pepper output during 2009-10 is estimated to rise marginally by around 4% over last year because of good yield in Central and North Kerala, according to the annual crop survey done by the Directorate of Arecanut and Spices Development (DASD).

The production would have been much higher but heavy rainfall in October in Karnataka damaged the standing crop. The Kozhikode-based DASD conducted the pepper survey in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Production in 2009-10 is expected to be around 53,000 tonne, up from 51,000 in 2008-09, DASD sources told FE. Pepper production in Kerala is expected to increase 40% to 35,000 tonne in 2009-10 as against 24,750 tonne in the previous year. "While production is seen improving in Idukki district, it is seen declining in Wayanad," sources said.

Idukki now accounts for 60% of the pepper production from the state. Indian pepper output has dipped drastically from around 75,000-1,00,000 tonne to the current levels of around 55,000 tonne because of disease and declining productivity.

Erratic climate and the fluctuation in prices have also led to a decline in crop management leading to a drop in production in Wayanad.

Farming area has not increased in Kerala in the past six years because of declining prices, Ananad MV, a farmer from Wayanad said.

The crop survey reports a decline in production in Karnataka due to excessive rains while crop in Tamil Nadu is expected to be normal. Production in Karnataka may decline to 15,000 tonne in 2009-10 from 20,000 tonne in 2008-09.

Vietnam has overtaken India as the largest pepper producer in a short time and is now the largest exporter of the commodity. Experts said that multi-crop planting policy in Kerala and Tamil Nadu is a major reason for fall in India's pepper productivity.

Vietnam has the highest per hectare productivity of around 1,200 kg to 1,300 kg, while India's per hectare output is just around 314 kg. Spices Board has drawn up plans to increase per hectare pepper yield to around 840 kg to increase production and viability of pepper farming.