South story: plantation crops get the shivers

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country,

From the UPSC perspective following things are important:

Prelims Level: Different types of spices

Mains Level: The South India’s economy is significantly depends on spices, tea and coffee. The article comprehensively explains the issues related to this sector.


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Specialty of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala 

  1. The three southern states are home to coffee and tea gardens, rubber plantations, and spice crops, generating employment to more than 13 lakh people
  2. Almost 40% of tea produced in the southern States is exported and 31% of pepper grown here, too, goes to other countries
  3. South India is the main grower of coffee, rubber, and spices such as cardamom, and pepper

Issues related to Plantation Sector

  1. The plantation sector faces issues such as challenges of climate change, increasing labour and input costs, the need to improve yield, and necessity of growers to focus on value addition

Challenges of Tea and Coffee sector

  1. Tea: In the case of tea, high labour costs and a jump in production in all the tea-growing countries are challenges
  2. Coffee: It is largely export-driven, there is a need to increase yields

Potential in Tea Sector

  1. Five or six decades ago, south Indian tea was on par with Sri Lankan tea in terms of quality and prices
  2. Gradually, production of CTC tea increased over orthodox tea in the southern estates, mainly due to high demand for the CTC from Russia two decades ago
  3. Today, though exports to different destinations are high in volume, it is mostly in the low-price range
  4. Even the better gardens in south India realise (auction price) just about Rs. 100 a kg as against Rs. 240 a kg for Sri Lankan tea
  5. Sri Lanka continues to produce orthodox tea that has larger export demand and promotes the “Ceylon tea” varieties
  6. To produce more orthodox tea and realise better prices, efforts should start at tea gardens
  7. All of this require huge investment

Condition of Coffee Exports

  1. For coffee, exports reached an all-time high of 3.55 lakh tonnes last fiscal, with the trend continuing this year.
  2. A national-level survey in 2012 showed the domestic market too growing at 5%-6%

Robusta and Arabica Coffee

  1. Over the years, cultivation of the Robusta variety has increased over the Arabica variety
  2. Indian Robusta has gained recognition in the international market and gets a premium
  3. However, Arabica cultivation requires attention as it is consumed more in the domestic market and this variety is important to conserve the forest ecosystem
  4. Arabica is susceptible to climate changes and in almost every-coffee growing country, Arabica production is affected because of climate changes
  5. In India, in the early 1950s, Arabica constituted 82% of coffee production and Robusta pitched in with 18%
  6. By 2016-2017, Arabica had slumped 31.3% and Robusta had increased to 68.7%

Issues related to Rubber market

  1. Most rubber-producing countries do not have a domestic market and hence export their produce
  2. The rubber-consuming industry in India (tyre manufacturers), which was earlier using the domestic sheet rubber, is now switching over to block rubber, citing better quality
  3. If import of block rubber increases further, it will affect the model of small growers making sheet rubber as value addition and selling it

Issues related to Spices

  1. Cardamom and pepper are the main spices on the plantation side, apart from cloves and nutmeg
  2. In the last 6-12 months, imports have pushed down the average price for domestic pepper growers from Rs. 697 a kgto Rs. 452
  3. Spices are sensitive to climate changes
  4. Even a slight variation in rainfall can bring down productivity 50%-60%
  5. Adverse climatic conditions in the last two years in several cultivation pockets have hit the cardamom crop
Plantation Agriculture – RISPC, Tea Act, etc.
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