Newindpress.com – Jose Kurian
KALPETTA: The legacy of Wayanadan Pepper, which attracted merchants from all over the world to this part of the state, is fading fast. Diseases has been haunting this crop for more than a decade and research institutions and Agricultre Department have totally failed in finding a remedy for this.
It was two panchayats in the district, Pulppalli and Mullankolli, which had been contributing a lion’s share of pepper produced in the country. However, the scenario has drastically changed. Now, withered pepper vines and supporting trees sans the creeper dot farms in the region.
To make matters worse, even the supporting trees are now facing pest-attack. ‘‘It is not far, when textbooks will tell students that this region had been famous for pepper cultivation,’’ said Kuriakose, an aged farmer from Mullankolly panchayat, half in jest about the plight of the farmers here.
‘‘Due to the onslaught of the diseases and hostile climate, majority of farmers are switching over to other crops like rubber,’’ he said.
It is not farmers alone who are worried. The exporters are also an anguished lot. ‘‘The dip in production and the magnitude of crop-loss is alarming and in future we may not be able to retain the goodwill of Wayanadan brand in the international market,’’ says farmer-exporter Parameswaran of Thiru-nelli, who has been directly exporting his produce to UK for the last 15 years.
As per the figures available with the Spices Board, there is a steady dip in pepper production in the district in the last seven years. In 1999-2000 the production was 27,907 tons while in 2006 it was around 14,000 tons. This year the production is predicted to go down by 40 percent compared to last year. ‘‘Due to incessant rain and onslaught of diseases the harvest this season is expected to be at all time low,’’ says Dr.N.M.Usman, an official of the Spices Board.