Coffee exports at 10-year low

Bangalore, March 21 | Updated: Mar 22 2006, 06:29am hrs
The Indian coffee exports are set to register a 10-year low during the current financial year ending March on the back of several factors including decline in production and hold over of stocks by growers.

Till date in the current fiscal, the coffee exports stood at 1,66,450 tonne, 15% down from 1,96,210 tonne in the same period last fiscal.

Although the volume of exports declined, export values surged to Rs 1,231 crore from Rs 1,119 crore a year ago, registering 10% year-on-year jump. The unit value also jumped to Rs 73,964 per tonne from Rs 57,041 a year ago.

Talking to FE, Indian Coffee Exporters Association president, Ramesh Raja, said, Usually India export close to 2.4 lakh tonne of coffee every year. But this fiscal it would come down to ten-year low due to decline in production following white stem borer disease and other factors.

From 2001 to 2004, Mr Raja said, The Indian growers could not get fair prices due to international market fluctuation that led to poor crop management in subsequent years resulting in lower crop output. The white stem borer disease also dragged down the coffee production, of Arabica in particular, to an all time low.

Another major reason for the set back in exports was holdover stocks, he said, adding that the growers and traders have stocked more than 20,000 tonne of coffee expecting good prices. Suspension of transport subsidies also hurt the exports during the period, he said.

Earlier, the government had offered a subsidy of 50 paise per kg to transport the commodity from farm to port. The subsidy was suspended from the beginning of this fiscal in April 2005, which in turn affected the exports in the current fiscal.

He said that the arrival of Robusta was also very much delayed in this season due to inadequate labourers in coffee growing areas. The Robusta crop, that was supposed to hit the market in February, started arriving only from this month, he added.

Last fiscal, the coffee exports clocked 2.11 lakh tonne. But this fiscal year ending March, it would not cross even 1.8 lakh tonne, Mr Raja said. Permits issued till date for exports are also low at 1.94 tonne compared to 2.04 tonne in the same period last fiscal.