KOCHI: With one lakh active growers of pepper in India concentrated mainly in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there are estimates that the price of ‘black gold’, which hovers around `700/kg now, is unlikely to sustain mainly due to increased production world over. As the sector enters into cultivation season, which falls during January to March, the price level is likely to see soft zigzag in the days to come.
“The price of almost all commodities including spices is under stress now. Hence it is unlikely to sustain the high levels now as it has been the case for over a year. The production in geographical locations sans Vietnam is likely to go up. This is likely to apply pressure on pepper. The cultivation in Vietnam starts in April, during that period also there is likely to see fluctuations in price,” said C P Krishnam, Wholetime Director, Geofin Comtrade Ltd.
In terms of total production, India ranks fourth globally after Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil. Countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka are catching up.
Pepper production in India is dominated by Kerala in terms of areas as the state cultivates in around 1.72 lakh hectares followed by Karnataka (21,000 ha) and Tamil Nadu (3,000 ha). Pepper production in India was 37,000 tonne in 2014.
In Kerala, increased cost of production is likely to weigh more on farmers in the state.
The major pepper production regions in the state are Wayanad and Idukki districts, there are around 50,000 active growers in this area. Last year the pepper price has hit a record `765 per kg.
“The high price levels unlikely to sustain for long as the production will increase going further.
The variety used in Karnataka is high yielding and hence the production figures would likely go up.
In all other producing countries across the globe the harvest is likely to give more yield,” said M C Alex, a pepper grower in Idukki district.
But, P J Kunjachan, Managing Director, Arjuna Natural Extracts said that the cost of production is very high in Kerala due to unavailability of workers.
“If high prices do not stay, the farmers may end up in huge loss,” he added.