Pepper production hit by poor monsoon spell

Written by RajeshRavi | Kochi | Updated: Oct 17 2012, 07:46am hrs
The erratic monsoon this year is likely to lead to a lower and delayed pepper production during the next season (2012-13), officials at the Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) said.

India is the largest consumer of pepper in the world with domestic consumption estimated at 40,000 tonne. India produces around 40,000-50,000 tonne of pepper annually with the bulk of the production coming from Idukki, Wayanad and Coorg districts in south India.

Kerala received 24 % less rains from the southwest monsoon with Idukki shorter by 21% and Wayanad by 49% than normal. Though the monsoon did strengthen in August bringing 8% more rainfall than normal to Kerala, it has not been sufficient to offset the total rain deficit brought about by the two preceding months. The late commencement of southwest monsoon and a lull in monsoon during June-July this year would result in delayed flowering in black pepper, M Anandaraj, director of IISR told FE. The dry spell encountered between flowering to fruit ripening would result in a low yield, he added.

Pepper is a plant of humid tropics, which requires adequate rainfall and humidity for its growth and development. It requires a rainfall of 20003000 mm annually. Besides total rainfall, the rainfall distribution plays a critical role in black pepper cultivation and productivity. Rainfall of 70 mm received in 20 days during May-June is sufficient for triggering flowering process in the plant, but once the process is set off there should be continuous showers until fruit ripening. Any dry spell even for a few days within this critical period of flowering to fruit ripening will result in low yield, Anandaraj said.

Prolonged spell of drought or heavy rains or the sharp and sudden alteration of the two during the advanced stage of berry development could lead to spike shedding. Studies done at IISR on the relationship between climatic parameters and productivity in black pepper showed that the December and January rainfall had negative correlation while April and May rainfall had positive correlation.

According to the reports of International Pepper Community's (IPC), Indian production during 2012 is projected around 43,000 tonne and 48,000 tonne during 2011. India exported 26,700 tonne of pepper during 2011-12.