Harvesting black pepper on the 80,000-acre Tata Coffee plantation near Coorg, India. The pepper vines grow on the trunks of trees that provide shade for the flowering robusta coffee plants, which only bloom for one day each year. The harvesters use pole-ladders to ascend the tree with a safety harness and pick the strings of peppercorns by hand. The plantation was established by the British who introduced silver oak trees from Australia to provide timber and additional shade (30% of total trees are non-native) for the coffee, which requires partial shade of forest trees. They have planted pepper vines at the base of trees as a form of inter-cropping, to create an additional crop and add some biological diversity to the plantation. They have 1.8M trees on the estate, and pepper is planted on 0.4M. They are expanding but are limited by the fact that only the bigger trees are economical to harvest. The forest is home to wild elephants and tigers, who predate on spotted deer and feral pigs. The coffee cherries are commonly eaten by elephants and wild rhesus monkeys, and the peppers by Mallabar squirrels. Resident bees naturally pollinate all the crops.
Last year robusta raw sold for 158r/kg, Arabica 406r/kg. Last year 6kmt robusta 1.5kmt arabica, all irrigated and fertilized
War in Ukraine has lowered coffee prices by 10%.
- ©2022 George Steinmetz
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