Coffee Plantation in Stress | UPSC

Coffee Plantation in Stress | UPSC


Labour scarcity makes coffee plantation ecosystem in Western Ghats fragile: Study

      WHY IN NEWS:

Straight from DownToEarth Mag !

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Agriculture : Plantation


For PRELIMS it is important to understand preferable conditions for the growth of coffee .

For MAINS understand the effect of pandemic on coffee cultivators and the plantation . Let us dive in !


Rising labour costs, urbanisation and increased use of pesticides point to a growing conservation concern in the Ghats


  • Coffee production in India is dominated in the hill tracts of South Indian states, with Karnataka accounting for 71%.
  • It is followed by Kerala with 21% and Tamil Nadu (5% of overall production with 8,200 tonnes).

Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee grown in the shade rather than direct sunlight anywhere in the world.

  • There are about 250,000 coffee growers in the country; 98% of them are small growers.
  • Almost 80% of Indian coffee is exported.
  • 70% is bound for Germany, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, United States, Japan, Greece, Netherlands and France.
  • Italy accounts for 29% of the exports.
  • Most of the export is shipped through the Suez Canal.

Coffee Plantation in Stress | UPSC


  • Indian coffee, grown mostly in southern states under monsoon rainfall conditions, is also termed as “Indian monsooned coffee“.

The two well known species of coffee grown are the Arabica and Robusta.

  • The first variety that was introduced in the Baba Budan Giri hill ranges of Karnataka in the 17th century.


  • These southern coffee growing regions are in the Western Ghats mountain range, a biodiversity hotspot that runs some 1450 km along India’s southwest coast.
  • Over a third of the region’s 5000 plant species are found no place else on earth.

BirdLife International has also designated a Western Ghats Endemic Bird Area, as it has 16 restricted-range species confined to this region.

  • Among them is the engaging little Black-and-rufous Flycatcher (Ficedula nigrorufa).
  • Another near-threatened flycatcher endemic to the Western Ghats is the Nilgiri Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudatus).
  • This bird is declining due to habitat destruction, but it can be found on shaded coffee plantations.


  • Coffee plantations, have contributed to conservation of biodiversity by providing habitat for key species of concern.
  • But rising labour costs, urbanisation and increased use of pesticides may threaten that.

Higher variety of tree species necessary for sustaining wildlife habitat:

  • Larger farm size
  • Increase in canopy density
  • Cultivation of coffee arabica varieties

The size of the land holdings in coffee plantations, according to the results, was affected by the densification of the tree canopy in the last decade.


  • A disruption in labour supply impacted the management practices, which in turn impacted biodiversity.
  • In coffee plantations, tree maintenance demands a large amount of seasonal labour force.
  • This is compounded further because labour costs make up 65 per cent of input costs.

With declining supply and increasing costs of labour, preferred management options tend towards reducing tree canopy and tree diversity, especially among small landholders.

  • Due to insufficient labour and an increasingly volatile market, small landholders in the Western Ghats were gravitating towards production and management practices associated with maintaining fewer tree varieties.


  • This simplification of production impacted the smallest landholders the most.
  • A labour-scarce environment also prompts higher usage of pesticides along with substitution of Arabica with Robusta coffee plantations.

As a result, several households converted farms from Arabica to Robusta as the price difference between the two varieties almost reached parity.

  • Roughly 75% of coffee plantations in the Western Ghats were smaller than 10 hectares as a result of the conversion.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Biodiversity is the latest casualty of the pandemic-induced lockdowns that triggered mass reverse migration.

The current situation makes it harder for coffee planters to hire labour, and for labour to get to coffee plantations without significant hurdles.

  • In addition to the blow to livelihoods and costs to the larger economy, the cascade of effects will eventually impinge upon the birds and the bees.
     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB | Coffee Plantation in Stress | UPSC



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