For many of us, coffee is a daily fix. But few would relate to it as a life changer. Here a farmer in Wayanad, the coffee land of Kerala, is brewing success by cultivating coffee as an intercrop.
Eight years ago, when planting coffee in his rubber plantations Kavalakkatt Roy Antony, a native of Pulppally, Wayanad, did ever think that the world will exemplify his farming methods and concepts in future. Now Roy is all the more convinced that his decision was absolutely right. For the last seven years, he had been successfully cultivating coffee along with other crops.
In the meantime, he has developed a new variety of Arabica coffee, exclusively for rubber plantations and named it as 'Roys Selection'. It can be grown under 80 percent shade and can be harvested after 18 months. Here, full-scale coffee production will be possible in three years. The roots of this coffee plant do not spread far and wide and hence would have no adverse impact on rubber cultivation. The beans are comparatively larger in size and disease resistant.
“Coffee plants growing under more shade will yield more”, he says. In one acre 1800 coffee plants can be grown. From the third year onwards, one kilogram to three kilograms will be obtained from one plant. As 70 percent of the beans are AA grade in quality, this coffee variety is suitable for exports and fetch better price in the market. A farmer can procure 1500 to 1800 kilograms coffee beans from one acre. As it possesses tap root system, there is no need to water them even during summer. Roy says that this offers a considerable income for farmers who were facing crisis due to the lower price of rubber in the market.
In the first phase of growth, nitrogen-rich fertilizers and more potash can be given. Roy's method is to apply fertilizers in a small amount at several times. In his point of view, it is better to find a suitable intercrop for every crop. He has also been producing Robusta coffee as an intercrop in his coconut fields.
When farmers started asking frequently for ‘Roys selection’ seedlings, he has started a separate nursery in 2014. In order to avoid the chances of mixing saplings with other varieties, Roy has started providing seedlings directly for farmers anywhere in Kerala and he has designed a new vehicle for it. Roys Coffee has started brewing in many parts of Kerala, including Pala, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram. Apart from this, it is also being transported to other states. Now, he is planning to develop more seedlings every year.
Way Café Producers Company
Recently, he along with a few coffee farmers founded the Way Cafe Producers Company, a NABARD- supported venture, of which he is the head. It is aimed to found a solution for the struggles experienced by the small-holder coffee farmers and give voice to the people who work within it, he says. The company procures coffee beans directly from the farmers at a good price and sell them in the market under the name Way Cafe. As the second largest consuming commodity in the world after crude oil, coffee has several marketing possibilities. Farmers need to get that assured opportunities, he says.
His success in coffee farming has motivated many other farmers in the region to convert to intercropping. Many people visit Roy’s coffee land to experience and learn the success formula. The Minister of Agriculture V S Sunilkumar, having heard of Roy's farming methods through the media, visited Pulpally last month and opined that it could be accepted as a model for other farmers in the state. Such interventions from the part of officers and government can create awareness about intercrop farming among others and spread to more places, Roy says.
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