Andhra Pradesh, especially Visakhapatnam, is very proud of its homegrown coffee. Right from the time one sets foot into the city, there are restaurants, coffee shops, food stalls selling the world-famous ‘Organic Araku Coffee’.
Most recently, this organic coffee earned global recognition when it won a gold medal at the Prix Epicures OR 2018 Award in Paris, a first for an Indian coffee blend.
The origin of this award-winning coffee lies in the lush hills of Andhra’s reserve forest area. Over a 100 kilometres away from Vizag, as one drives through the dense forest areas at an altitude of nearly 1000 metres above sea level, the roads are dotted with coffee plants and pepper creepers on either sides. Most of these coffee plants grow under the shade of jack fruit and silver oak trees.
But a look at the lives of farmers growing this coffee paints a stark contrast. Over 93,000 tribal farmers in the Tribal area of Andhra Pradesh are engaged in cultivation of coffee. While this coffee reaches the market and gets sold for around Rs 100 for 100 grams, these farmers are struggling to even get Rs 100 for a kilo of the coffee beans they produce.
Farmers say that this price is far from being fair and brings them no profits for the amount of investment they put in. And farmers claim that every year, this price only decreases, but shows no sign of improvement.
Meanwhile, government officials blame the involvement of middlemen and lack of awareness for the situation of the farmers and say that they are working to uplift these farmers and give them a better income. The farmers say that a fair price of at least Rs 100 for a kilo of the dried fruit and Rs 200 a kilo for the beans will ensure they earn a better livelihood from cultivating coffee.
As a result, farmers have been slowly losing interest in coffee cultivation, something they all started in the hope of earning a decent livelihood. While several farmers have left and moved down to towns and cities in search of other work, many farmers grow other crops to earn a decent livelihood and hope to sustain coffee cultivation.