The propagation of plants is a fundamental occupation of humankind. Agriculture is the key development that has led to the rise of human civilization; with the husbandry of domesticated animals and plants (i.e. crops) creating food surpluses that enabled the development of more densely populated and stratified societies. Various plantation crops in India are tea, coffee, spices and rubber etc.
India’s export of plantation products in value terms could rise this year because of a global shortage of plantation crops. While India’s overall export growth in 2009-10 is expected to remain flat, plantation sector exports is forecasted to grow by almost 14% each, over the next two years. The total output of plantation sector in 2008-09 is estimated at 15.1 million tonne, accounting for 17.5% of the global output. The country exports around 530,000 tonne of plantation commodities a year.
Volume of exports from the plantation sector has remained more or less the same for the last five years. The total area under plantation crops is estimated at 1.65 million hectares. “Increasing productivity of the crops is essential for India to remain competitive and increase it exports as the cost of production is seen high when compared to most of the competing origins.
In Coffee, India stands second with a productivity of 0.84 tonne per hectare compared to 1.97 tonne per ha of Vietnam. In rubber India stands second to Philippines, while in pepper, India is positioned sixth with a productivity of 0.28 tonne per hectare against Cambodia which stands on top with 6.25 tonne per hectares.
Tea production is down by almost 15.7 million kg for January-July 2009, when compared to the production of the same period of 2008. The drought like conditions in the first quarter and the erratic weather conditions during the second quarter has resulted in lower crop, Tea Board sources said. Production was higher in 2008 at 980.8 million kg compared to 944.7 million kg in 2007.
Unseasonal rains and high temperature in the last few months of 2009 have reduced cashew yield by 8-10%. In 2007-08, the country produced around 6.65 lakh tonne of cashew. India has to import more than half of its requirement of raw cashew because of low domestic output.
Imports of raw cashew were almost 23% more in the first eleven months of last fiscal. It is obvious that cashew kernels are finding its way into the robust domestic market.
There has been a sustained increase in the adoption of mechanization in an attempt to ensure greater return on investment and sustainability of agriculture. As the sector has emerged out of a prolonged recessionary cycle, growers should invest in re-plantation and rejuvenation of ageing bushes or plants to face competition set to intensify with the advent of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) India signed with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The FTA comes into force from January 1, 2010.