Kochi: The signs of early withdrawal of monsoon rains from parts of southern India have raised concerns that black pepper output may fall short of forecast.
Experts had said production of the spice from the new crop will exceed last year’s by 14%. The spice industry reckons that scanty showers in September and October will cap output at a much lower level than the 55,500 tonnes predicted by the International Pepper Community (IPC).
"Growers are worried as there has been no rain in the last three weeks. Already the feeling is that it may not be a bumper crop," said Jojan Malayil, CEO of Bafna Enterprises.
Karnataka and Kerala are the primary producers of pepper, which at 28,100 tonnes last year had fetched an export revenue of Rs 1,730 crore.
The record export was mostly on the back of imports from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, as domestic consumption has topped 50,000 tonnes.Against a projected production of 53,000 tonnes last year, farmers were able to produce only 40,000 tonnes of pepper.
The next harvest in India is in the December-January period. "Already the green berries have started coming. Exporters are getting into forward contracts and the prices are just Rs 440 per kg, perhaps indicating a surplus crop in the global market," said KB Adityan, purchase manager of Plant Lipids, a major spice oleoresin exporter.
Vietnam, the world’s largest producer, is heading for a bumper crop by January, which could bring down the global price of the commodity. Indonesia, the second largest producer, is also expecting a good crop. According to Malayil, Vietnam has exported nearly 90% of its stock. Though the country had projected an output of 1.40 lakh tonnes, it was higher by 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes.
"The production in Vietnam next year is expected to be between 1.75 to 2 lakh tonnes. There could be another 20,000 tonnes from Cambodia. So it could be a surplus situation," said Vasudevan Namboodiri, partner of N2N Spices.
Indian pepper is priced at $10,750 per tonne as compared with $7500 of Brazil and Indonesia.