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The Spicy Success Story of Pudukottai Farmers Growing Black Pepper Worth Rs 1000/kg

Read the story of farmers in Pudukottai where black pepper has become an unexpected hit!

Binita Kumari
Black Pepper
Black Pepper

For the growers in Pudukottai, black pepper has become an unexpected hit. Senthil Selvan's farm in Senthagudi village, Pudukottai district, has pepper vines trained around unique support pipes.

For the past decade, a group of farmers in the Pudukottai region appears to have taken the saying "variety is the spice of life" to heart, successfully farming black pepper (Piper nigrum). Pepper, despite its reputation as a hilly-region crop, may thrive on the plains, particularly when intercropped with coconut.

In the Pudukottai district, at least 300 acres of land are used for pepper farming in places like Mangadu, Alangudi, Vadakkadu, Keeramangalam, and Sethakudi. Shade is the most important factor for this crop, and Pudukottai is noted for its scorching sun.

Farmers, on the other hand, have worked around this by training vines up tall trees on their farms, according to K. Dhanalakshmi, associate professor of horticulture at Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Vamban, Pudukottai district.

The consequences of the 2018 Gaja storm, according to black pepper farmers in the district, were more severe than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Senthamil Selvan, who has been cultivating pepper on one-and-a-half acres of his six-acre organic farm in Senthangudi village since 2013, said, "Many of our trees were blown down, and it took us at least two years to make the fields suitable for cultivation again."

Selvan, who also manages a pepper sapling nursery, said, "At first, I intercropped it with coconut, but recently, I've shifted to specifically designed pipes and support structures to grow pepper."

“Some of the cultivars that have performed well in our farms include Karimunda, Cauvery, Panneer 1 and 7, and Wayanad. But the government doesn't assist us to market our pepper, which has the same level of spice and quality as the Malabar harvest," said D. Rajakkannu, who has been growing the spice for 20 years on his four-acre farm in Anavayal.

The price of Pudukottai's pepper peaked at Rs 1,000 per kilogram before the pandemic but has now dropped to roughly 600.

Rajakkannu explained, "The effect of the lockdown was not felt much in our area; instead, competition from cheaper Sri Lankan pepper has hit our farmers harder." According to the farmer, value-added pepper products were not yet popular in the area.

"Even the potential for producing white pepper, which requires just removing the darker flesh of the ripe pepper fruit and powdering the seed once it has dried," Rajakkannu stated, "has not been investigated in our area, despite its higher market rate per kilo."

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