Bengaluru: As it rains in Kerala’s hilltops and valleys, the growers are crying. One of the most affected in regions in the current flash floods and landslides, such as Idukki and Wayanad, are key locations for the plantation industry, the state’s biggest private employer in the formal sector and a major market player. Industry experts are estimating a total loss upwards of Rs 900 crore.
Places such as Munnar in Idukki is witnessing an unprecedented amount of damage wrecked by the last 24 hours torrential downpour, with roads and properties collapsing under surging water levels. The spices produced in these verdant hills, like black pepper and cardamom, is a major attraction in both national and international market. The state’s rubber belt areas—districts such as Kottayam and Pathanamthitta—are also heavily affected. Kerala produces an estimated 85% of India’s rubber.
The blow to the industry comes just ahead of the peak growing months—September and October—and at a time when it was already battling with falling prices after a recovery from drought last year.
The big players are looking at a total loss in the crop of about Rs 550 crore, include the small players and then it will be about Rs 900 crore, said Vinay Raghavan, vice president of Harrisons Malayalam Plantation, one of the biggest players in the state market, and former president of Kerala Planters Association. This does not include infrastructure damage, like roads, bridges and other properties.
“We are very badly affected, production in the last two months has been only 70% of what it was last August. The water level is very high in most areas, Munnar is totally washed out and cut off from the mainland,” he said.
“The permanent damage has to be evaluated. In key areas, to recover we will have to skip for 20-25 days ahead because the mud will be all over the bush. Neither prices nor production is supportive, the small growers are going to be really badly affected,” said Raghavan.