Kerala cultivates 1,62,660 hectares of spices crops with an annual production of 1,40,000 tonnes out of which Idukki and Wayanad account for 62% of the spice cultivation. Devastating floods of August have wiped out 30% of the spice production in Kerala, resulting in a loss of Rs. 1,254 crore, reveals a field study conducted by ICAR-IISR. The major crops surveyed were black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, and clove that contributed 90% of the total spice crops in Kerala. The survey was undertaken with the support of the Department of Agriculture and other agencies in 60 villages across 27 community development blocks in seven districts.
Briefing a well-attended press conference held at the Institute on 26 September 2018, Dr. K. Nirmal Babu, Director, IISR, said that the rainfall destroyed 26,614 hectares black pepper leading to a production loss of 10,700 tonnes, resulting in a loss of Rs. 402 crore. The production of cardamom is estimated to dip by 6,600 tonnes, causing a loss of Rs. 679 crore. In perennial tree spices, Dr. Babu said the loss was pegged at 2,749 tonnes of nutmeg, valued at Rs. 101.8 crore and 13 tonnes of clove, estimated at Rs. 0.93 crore. The production losses of ginger and turmeric were 976 tonnes and 396 tonnes, respectively, and the damage was valued at Rs. 6.05 crore and Rs. 8.68 crore. Dr. Babu pointed out that the loss would escalate to Rs. 3,901 crore if the variable and fixed costs inputs, the cost of reestablishing the crop and the long gestation period to attain full bearing, were also taken into account.
“The focus should be on protecting the existing plants and launching a large-scale replanting programme with high-yielding varieties. The cost for preparing the planting materials alone was estimated to be Rs. 194 crore and other inputs like fertilizers, micronutrients, and bio-agents would cost another Rs. 182 crore,” Nirmal Babu said. Dr. Santhosh J. Eapen, Head (Crop Protection) and Dr. Lijo Thomas, Scientist (Agrl. Economics) also participated in the press meet.