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Hudhud devastates organic coffee plantations in Araku Valley in AP

Cyclone Hudhud, which left a trail of destruction in coastal Andhra Pradesh, has left its mark on coffee plantations in the Araku valley in Andhra Pradesh and parts of Odisha as well. The upcoming organic coffee plantations in the valley have been devastated.

According to Coffee Board, about 20 per cent of the bean-bearing plants have been damaged. In recent years, Andhra Pradesh has seen coffee plantations on more than 57,000 acres in the Araku Valley, with most of it being organic coffee. Of this, an estimated 15,000 hectares were damaged by the cyclone.

“The Hudhud cyclone has caused extensive damage to the standing coffee crop in Araku valley. We had expected the crop to be in the range of 10,000 tonnes this year. But, due to the cyclone, the production could be the same as last year,” Kothapalli Geetha, Member of Parliament from Araku in Andhra Pradesh said.

Silver oak trees have been knocked down onto the grown up coffee plantations due to the cyclone and growers are in urgent help from the Coffee Board like fertiliser, she said.

In 2013-14, Araku valley planters produced around 7,000 tonnes of organic coffee, she said at the coffee stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Ministry of Commerce, here on Monday.

“According to our reports, shade trees are affected in the Araku valley in Andhra Pradesh and in Koraput district in Odisha. Loss to the coffee crop is not much. But, we estimate a 20 per cent loss to the coffee plants,” Coffee Board Chairman Jawaid Akhtar said.

Stating that the best Arabica coffee comes from the Araku valley, Akhtar said, the Coffee Board was preparing a contingency plan and submitted it to the ministry for approval.

In Araku Valley, coffee is largely grown by tribals. Popularly known as non-traditional areas in the coffee circles, this region includes the states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and to small extent Madhya Pradesh. The region is predominantly inhabited by a wide variety of tribal groups who are known for their primitive agriculture practices and ‘Podu’ (shifting cultivation) over centuries.

The trees are planted at an elevation of 3,200 feet above sea level. Over 100,000 tribals are engaged in coffee cultivation in Araku valley and they practise organic cultivation.

The board has also finalised modalities for the implementation of many new and existing schemes proposed for the development of coffee during the 12th Plan and sent to the ministry for approval. Among new plans proposed, the board will introducing a certification programme for organic coffee, he said.

For the first time, Akhtar said, if a planter goes for replanting of Robusta trees in an Arabica garden, the subsidy will not be given. A farmer has to replant Arabica trees only in an Arabica garden to avail the subsidy. The board aims to achieve 25 per cent growth in productivity in the non-traditional areas and a detailed plan of scheme will be announced for non-traditional areas very soon, he said.

Thrust is also being given for flavoured coffee to encourage consumption among youth, he said.

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