As prices fluctuate during the current harvest, struggling coffee growers believe that now is the ideal time for the Center to strengthen the only multi-state co-operative Coffee Marketing Co-operative Ltd (COMARK) by providing financial support to the growers’ organization to engage in market intervention activities. Farm gate coffee prices have decreased by approximately a fifth over the past few months, following worldwide trends, raising concerns among growers who are already dealing with other difficulties like unseasonal rainfall, increased wage costs, and labor scarcity.
A certain group of growers also feels that they do not fully profit from price increases around the world and from the rupee’s decline in value. Prices for arabica parchment have dropped from $16,000 in the first week of October to $13,100 for a 50 kg bag. Similarly, Arabica cherry prices have decreased from 9,100 levels in October to 6,400–6,700. Prices for robusta cherry have dropped to $4,150-4,250 levels from $4,700 -5,000 levels, and robusta parchment prices have fallen to $8,250-8,500 from $9,75010,000 levels.
“The Center could enhance COMARK by injecting new funds of approximately $50 crores, which may be used by the cooperative for procurement and marketing operations, providing some respite to small growers,” said B S Jayaram, Director of COMARK. The growers valued the prices set by COMARK each day, which were based on the closing New York and London prices and the rupee-dollar exchange rates, but Jayaram claimed that the cooperative lacked the financial wherewithal to do the procurement and marketing operations on a wider scale.
Therefore, new funding from the Center is required to restart the coffee co-operative, and the government has been contacted in this regard, according to Jayaram, who is also a former chairman of COMARK. In 2013, the Karnataka government invested 10 crores to resurrect COMARK. Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu are the three states that produce the most coffee, and COMARK was founded in 1992. According to H T Mohankumar, President of The Karnataka Growers’ Federation, the organization for small growers, “strengthening of cooperative COMARK will be useful to growers in terms of improved realizations.”