Pest attacks, patchy rains cloud India’s 2023-24 coffee crop prospects

After incomplete pre-monsoon rains, pests such as mealybug and giant African snails are seen hurting prospects for the 2023-24 coffee crop from October. Sporadic attacks of these pests in the main growing areas of Chikkamagalur, Hassan and Kodagu districts have raised some concern among farmers, who feel that they may reduce the size of the next crop.

“The mealybug infestation is mainly observed in most parts of Chikmagalur and Hassan, while the giant African snail is observed in parts of northern Kodagu,” said Mahesh Shashidhar, President of Karnataka Farmers Association. Mealybug infestations can have an overall impact of 15-20 percent, Shashidhar said, adding that it could be as high as 30-40 percent in a few properties.

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Relieves fears

Attacks of mealybugs and giant African snails are sporadic and allay concerns, said M. Senthil Kumar, Research Director, Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI), Balhuronur, noting that a minor infestation by pests will not have any impact on the yield. He said the center recommended a set of practices to deal with the infestation of giant African snails and mealybugs.

rain deficit

Prolonged dry weather with intermittent rains has been seen which aids in the invasion of these pests. Karnataka, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the country’s coffee production, has seen a deficit of 2 percent in pre-monsoon rains this year for the state as a whole. The lack of rain before the monsoon season was more severe in the major coffee-producing regions. While Kodagu, the largest coffee growing district, saw a rainfall deficit of 33 percent, Chikmagalur saw a deficit of 23 percent. However, Hassan saw a surplus of 6 percent, according to data from the Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre.

Pre-monsoon showers are essential for coffee flowers and crop preparation. “Due to climate change, an infestation of mealybugs has been observed in some pockets, but it can be controlled with insecticides. Production is unlikely to be affected,” said H.T. Mohankumar, President of Karnataka Farmers Union, a body of small farmers. It is noted that the pre-monsoon weakness is affecting the overall crop setting this year, Mohan Kumar said. He said, “The rainfall in the coffee areas was supposed to be about 20 inches, but the rainfall is between 5 to 10 inches across different districts. “.

Ps Jairam, a farmer in Mudigir, said pests such as mealybugs have been seen thriving in all three districts due to the lack of rain and prolonged dry weather. He said the blight, which feeds on soft coffee beans, can affect yields by up to 30 percent.

India’s coffee production in the current 2022-23 crop season is expected to reach 3.60 thousand tons that includes 1.01 thousand tons of Arabica and 2.59 thousand tons of Robusta, according to the Coffee Board post-monsoon estimates.