Pepper prices go up but Idukki farmers glum as they sold off their stock

Pepper can be grown profitably only if it fetches at least Rs 500 per kg. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Idukki: Pepper prices are set for a decadal high, however many farmers in Idukki have a problem. They don't have the stock to cash in on soaring rates.
When the school reopened, most of the farmers sold off the pepper they had stocked to meet the expense for books, uniform and stationery. With summer ravaging cardamon plantations, the farmers were pinning hopes on pepper, cocoa and cloves. Pepper vines had survived the harsh summer.

''When we need money, what else can we do but sell the pepper or cardamom you have at whatever price you get? Most of us farmers were hoping to get Rs 1000 per kg. But even at Rs 700 per kg, we don't have the pepper to sell. Pepper had to be sold when the school was open. I have two children studying in class 8 and 4. Our lives are totally dependent on agriculture. We were in need of additional funds when the schools reopened. Now we haven't got anything left,'' said Jins, a farmer at Ezhukumvayal.

In 2014, pepper had fetched a price of Rs 750 per kg. After 10 years, pepper price went up to Rs 680 per kg. In 2017, pepper recorded the lowest price. At that time it was only Rs 250 per kg. Now that pepper has fetched better prices, farmers in Idukki have run out of produce to sell.

Black pepper was priced at Rs 680 per kg last week. The price of black pepper was Rs 470 this March. There was a slight increase in the price of pepper in the month of April. But after the first week of June, the price has increased.

Roy Sebastian, a native of Chembakappara, said that farmers like him will be relieved if this price rise continues until the next season. '' We got nothing from cardamom this year. We are doubtful of a good yield from pepper vines due to lack of rain,'' he said. Pepper can be grown profitably only if it fetches at least Rs 500 per kg, farmers said. The pepper plant is a plant that is susceptible to many diseases as well as fungal and viral attacks.  

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