Read Essay on “Plantation Crops in India” (689 Words)

They require heavy initial capital investment and high level technology for their growth and processing. They cover small area in India but are of high economic value. Tea, coffee and rubber are the principal plantation crops but spices are also included in this category.

Tea and coffee are also famous as beverage crops. There are over 30,000 plantations in India giving full or part time employment to over 20 lakh persons. Most of the plantations are under tea, coffee and rubber.

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India is the third largest producer after China and U.S.A. Tobacco is an American plant and the Europeans learned to smoke it from the Native Americans. Tobacco cultivation in India was introduced by the Portuguese in 1588.

Although the use of tobacco in any form is harmful to health, its production continues to increase. There are many varieties of tobacco cultivated in India, each state specializing in production of specific types.

Conditions of Growth:

The tobacco plant can be grown in a wide climatic range freedom from frost. Soil is more important for tobacco cultivation. The plant depletes the soil of potash.

1. Temperature: Tobacco plants grow best in areas with temperatures ranging between 20°C and 40°C. Frost is damaging to the plant.

2. Rainfall: It requires rainfall ranging from 75 cm to 100 cm well distributed during the growing period. Strong, dry winds are harmful.

3. Soil: Well-drained, sandy loamy soil is most suitable. The soil is generally burn to a depth of 7 cm to 10 cm to kill weeds and pests. The ash also deposits the necessary potash back into the soil. The tobacco plant also needs minerals like phosphoric acid and iron in the soil.

Methods of Cultivation:

Tobacco cultivation needs more care than most other commercial crops. It is labour-intensive and requires an abundant supply of labour at all stages of cultivation and processing for market.

1. Sowing:

Sowing is done between July and October. The tobacco plant seeds are sown in well-prepared nursery beds. In about 6 to 8 weeks, when the plants are about 12 cm to 15 cm high, the seedlings are transplanted into prepared fields with wet soil. They are planted in rows and the distance between the plants depends on the type of tobacco.

2. Topping:

In about 3 to 4 months, the plants grow to a height of 1.5 m with large leaves. At this stage flower buds appear at the top of the plant. The top leaves and the buds are removed, to avoid seeding. This allows the plant to have more and larger leaves. This process is known as topping.

3. Suckering:

After topping, when auxiliary buds grow, they are also removed. This is known as suckering. As with topping, suckering also helps to improve the size, body and quality of the leaves.

4. Harvesting:

In about 7 to 8 months, the leaves begin to turn yellow and are ready to be harvested. The plant may be harvested in two ways:

(a) Stalk-Cutting Method:

The entire plant is uprooted. All the uprooted plants are left overnight in the field and exposed to night dew. Next day the plants are ar­ranged in circular heaps about 6 metres high with the stalks outwards. At night the heaps are reopened and the plants exposed to night dew. This is done for about five days until the leaves turn yel­low.

After that the plants are hung on poles for 10 to 15 days. Then they are again arranged in square heaps and opened and repacked every two to three days. The leaves begin to “sweat” and turn black. This is a sign that the fermentation process is complete. After this the leaves are stripped off the stalk and packed in bales for market.

(b) Leaf-Picking Method:

The leaves are picked as they mature. Harvesting begins with the bottom leaves. Each time 2 to 3 leaves are picked. In another week, the next 2 to 3 leaves reach maturity and are picked. After harvesting the leaves are strung on bamboo sticks at the rate of about 100 leaves per stick and loaded in the barn for curing.

5. Curing:

Tobacco leaves are cured in order to impart colour, texture and aroma to the final product. There are different ways of curing depending on the quality requirement and the use to which it is put.

Areas of Production:

Although tobacco is cultivated all over India, it is more concentrated in the river valleys and low-lying coastal areas. Virginia tobacco is produced mainly in Andhra Pradesh. More than two-thirds of the total production of tobacco comes from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka. Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The other tobacco producing states are Uttar Pradesh. Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Gujarat.

India is the third largest tobacco producing country of the world after China and USA and accounts for nearly 8 per cent of the world’s total tobacco production. Although tobacco is grown in as many as 15 states of India, only two states viz. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh account for about 58.4 per cent of the production and 65% per cent of the hectare under tobacco in the country.

Normally, Gujarat is considered to be the second largest producer of tobacco in India after Andhra Pradesh, its production marginally exceeds that of Andhra Pradesh. About 90 per cent of Gujarat’s tobacco comes from Kheda and Vadodara districts.

Andhra Pradesh:

Andhra Pradesh has been the traditional top producer of tobacco in India. In fact, there is always a tough competition for the first place between these two states and they keep in exchanging their position on year to year basis.

In the year 2009-10, Andhra Pradesh accounted for 360 thousands tonnes of tobacco from 199 thousand hectares (44% of all India) of land. Prakasham, West and East Godavari, Krishna, Kurnool and Nellore are the main producing districts.


The other tobacco producing states in India are Uttar Pradesh (11.52%), Gujarat (14.51%), Karnataka (13.14%), Bihar (2.49%), Tamil Nadu (1.55%), and Maharashtra (1.01%) of production.


About 80 per cent of the total production of tobacco is used within the country and the remaining 20 per cent is exported. India is world’s fourth largest exporter of tobacco. Presently India exports tobacco to about 60 countries. Russia and U.K. purchase about two-third of our total tobacco exports.

The other important buyers of Indian tobacco are Japan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Germany and Singapore. About 90 per cent of the tobacco export trade is handled by Chennai alone, the rest being handled by Calcutta, Mumbai and Vishakapatnam.

Tea (Camellia Sinensis):

Tea is an important beverage. More people drink tea than any other beverage. The tea plant known as Thea Sinensis is an evergreen plant. Tea is a small evergreen shrub that is constantly pruned to a height of 1.5 m on plantations.

It takes almost 40 days for a tea plant to produce a full flush of leaves ready for picking. The tea plant produces shoots called flushes which consist of several leaves and a bud. After being picked, the flushes are processed into tea. The country’s total tea production touched an all time high at 988.3 million kg. The Assam produced 508.7 million kg of tea in 2011, accounting for over half of the country’s total production.

There are three main varieties of tea:

1. Black Tea is prepared by drying the leaves in the Sun and then rolling them mechanically between steel rollers and fermenting them.

2. Green Tea is consumed in the China and Japan. There is no fermentation in the processing of this type of tea.

3. Oolong Tea is made by partially fermenting the leaves. This gives tea leaves a greenish-brown colour.

Most Green and Oolong tea comes from China, Japan and Taiwan. In India tea plantations were started in 1823, when wild tea plants were discovered by the British in the forests of Assam.

Conditions of Growth:

The tea plant is tropical and a sub-tropical plant. It is one of the hardest plants and grows in a wide range of climatic variations.

1. Temperature:

Tea plant can grow in temperatures ranging between 13°C and 35°C but 25?C is the ideal temperature. Frost damages the plant.

2. Rainfall:

The plant needs heavy rainfall ranging between 150 m to 250 cm and should be well- distributed throughout the year. It cannot tolerate long spells of dry conditions.

3. Soil:

The plant requires a light loamy soil with a porous subsoil that allows the water to drain away since the roots cannot tolerate stagnant water. For this reason, hill slopes are preferred.

Methods of Cultivation:

Tea is made from the leaves of an evergreen plant grown on large plantation or estates. There are about 7500 bushes on one hectare land. The seeds are obtained from tea bushes grown to their full height which is 5 to 10m.

1. Sowing:

The seeds are planted in nursery beds where they grow for 9 to 12 months. They are then planted in their permanent home in the tea garden or tea estate. The average life span of a tea bush is about 50 years. Another method is to use cuttings from good high-yielding mother plants rather than from seeds. This method is known as clonal planting.

This method is becoming more popular. The tea bushes are planted in rows about a metre apart. Rows of shady trees are planted alternatively with tea bushes to protect them from the hot sun and intensity of light. These are known as shelter belts.

2. Pruning:

The tea plant is trained into a small bush by removing the central leader stem. This encourages quick development of the lateral branches which are pruned periodically to keep the bush at a convenient height of about 40 cm to 50 cm for the pluckers. Pruning encourages the growth of new shoots with softer leaves.

Pruning is done once in three or four years in south India while in the north, bushes are pruned every year or two. This is done by men.

3. Harvesting:

Tea shrubs are ready of plucking after 3 to 5 years when they produce a flush or new shoots. Each flush consists of several leaves and a bud. The finest tea is obtained from the new shoots of two-leaves-and-a-bud known as fine plucking. Plucking below this is not encouraged since the third leaf is coarser and does not result in making good tea. Plucking is done by hand. A skilled plucker can pluck 50 kg of tea leaves in one day, enough to make 14 kg of finished tea.

4. Processing:

There are five main operations in the preparation of black tea.

(a) Withering:

The leaves are spread thinly over withering racks and hot air is blown over the racks to remove the excess moisture. This makes the leaves soft and flexible.

(b) Rolling:

In this process the leaves are twisted which breaks the cell and exposes the natural juices to fermentation. This gives tea its characteristic flavour.

(c) Fermentation:

After rolling, the leaves are spread out on special trays for fermentation under controlled temperature and humidity conditions. In this process the tannin in tea is partly oxidized changing the colour of the leaves to a coppery-red.

(d) Drying or Firing:

This is the most critical stage in the processing of tea. Leaves are put on a conveyor belt and slowly passed through an oven, set between 70°C to 75°C. The temperature setting is very important. If it is too high, the leaves can get scorched or if it is too low the leaves may not be dried properly. At the end of the stage, the leaves look like normal black tea leaves we are familiar with.

(e) Sorting:

The tea leaves are sorted according to size by passing them over sifters with different size meshes (nets or screens). They are given different names like Pekoe. Orange Pekoe, Pekoe Suchong, Dust and many others. These names denote decreasing size and not quality.

Blending of Tea:

Tea grown in different gardens and different seasons has different flavours depending on soil, temperature and rainfall. To ensure consistency of flavour throughout the year, a number of teas are blended together. This is done by professional “tea-tasters” who have sensitive tastebuds.

Their exact blends are usually secret and closely guarded. In India, Darjeeling tea and Assam tea are blended to combine the qualities of both. Darjeeling tea ranks high in flavour while Assam tea makes good liquor. The blended tea thus has good flavour and good liquor.

Packing of Tea:

Tea is packed in airtight chests made of ply-wood and lined with aluminium-foil. This ensures that the tea does not lose its flavour and is protected against dampness.

Transporting of Tea:

Packed chests of tea are marked according to quality and sent to the nearest port for distribution. Tea grown in N.E. India is sent to Kolkata while tea cultivated in south India is sent to Kochi (former Cochin).

Kolkata is the largest tea exporting port in the world. 75% of the tea from N.E. India is brought to Kolkata by river transport (steamers) and the remaining by railway. Kochi is better connected to the tea gardens by way of road and rail transport. The backwaters of Kerala are also useful in bringing the tea chests to Kochi for export.

Areas of Production:

The main tea-growing areas in India are the hill slopes in the Brahmaputra and Surma valleys in Assam and the hill slopes of the Nilgiris, palnis and Anamalais in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Assam is the largest producer of tea and accounts for 50% of the tea grown in India. West Bengal ranks second and Tamil Nadu ranks third.

Following three areas of tea cultivation are identified according to their importance as tea producers and their location:

(1) North Eastern India; (2) South India (3) North West India.

1. North-Eastern India:

It is more or less a triangular area mainly in Assam and West Bengal. This is the most important tea producing region of India accounting for over 76 per cent production and about 80 per cent of area under tea production. Tea plantations are small in number but fairly large in size, generally more than 200 hectares.


Assam is the largest producer of tea accounting for over 55 per cent of the production almost the same percentage of area under tea cultivation in India.

(a) The Brahmaputra Valley extending from Sadiya to Goalpara comprises the main tea producing belt. It accounts for 44 per cent of India’s tea from 40 per cent of tea area of the country. There are 676 tea estates mainly in the districts of Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Darrang, Kamrup, Naugaon, and Goalpara.

With summer temperature of 30°C and winter temperature never falling below 10°C frost free weather throughout the year and 300-400 cm. annual rainfall extended over 9 months: the area provides ideal climatic conditions for tea cultivation. Tea estates are located on the raised grounds (upto 450 metres) so that annual inundations and stagnant water during the rainy season do not harm the crop.

(b) Surma Valley is the second important tea producing area in Assam. This valley, lying in Cachar district, produces about 5 per cent of country’s tea from 9 per cent of land under this crop. Here the tea gardens are scattered over small mounds called teelas or bheels or well-drained flats along the river and its tributaries. Here rainfall is 300-400 cm and no month is completely dry.

West Bengal:

West Bengal is the second largest producer of tea contributing about one-fifth of India’s tea from about one-fourth of the country’s total area under tea cultivation. Entire tea of West Bengal is produced in three northern districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar. These districts are contiguous to the main tea producing belt of Assam. Tea producing areas of West Bengal are divided into two geographical regions.

(a) The Duars in Cooch Bihar and Jalpaiguri districts is a 16 km. wide strip at the foot of the Himalayas. Here tea is raised on slightly elevated areas where suitable slope for proper drainage is available. Tea estates are found upto a height of 900-1200 m.

(b) Darjeeling district is well known all over the world for its most exquisite aromatic tea. Annual rainfall of 300 cm; moderate temperature and fertile soils give special flavour to tea although yields are quite low, generally below 15 quintals/hectare. Tea estates are found within 900-1,800 m. elevation beyond which the temperature is low and does not support tea cultivation. Some tea gardens are also found in Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in north-west India.

South India:

In South India, tea is produced in Nilgiri. Cardamom, Palni and Anaimalai hills in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka states extending from 9° N to 14° N latitudes. This region accounts for 22 per cent production and about 19 per cent of area under tea in India.

There is no fear of frost in south India and weather conditions are quite congenial. Therefore, the productivity is higher, generally 15-25 quintals/ hectare, although the quality of tea is inferior. But some of the south Indian teas have a good combination of taste and flavour.

In South India, Tamil Nadu is the largest producer of tea accounting for over 14 per cent of total tea production of India from just 9 per cent of the land. Tamil Nadu has the distinction of giving the highest yield of over 25 quintals hectare against 17 quintals/hectare for India as a whole.

Nilgiri and Anaimalai produce 46 per cent and 33 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s tea respectively. Kerala is another important producer of tea in South India accounting for 7.81 per cent of the total production of India. Kottayam, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram are the main tea producing districts. Some tea is produced in Hassan and Chikmaglyr districts of Karnataka.

3. North West India:

Some tea is produced in Dehra Dun, Almora and Garhwal districts of Uttar Pradesh and in Kangra Valley and Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh Green tea is produced in Kangra valley of Himachal Pradesh. Tea in small quantity is also produced in Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Purnea districts of Chota Nagpur plateau in Bihar.

Seventy to eighty percent of the total Indian production of tea is consumed in India. India is the largest producer and consumer of tea in the world accounting for about 28% of the world production and 14% of world trade. Export of tea is around 25% of the domestic production.

Of late, some quantity of tea is being imported for blending and re-exports under the present Exim policy, import of tea is permitted with an import duty of 100%. Low auction rates of tea, especially in South India have been a source of concern. Export of tea during the period 2002-03 was Rs. 1191.04 crore, as compared to Rs. 2003.15 in the year 1997-98.

Coffee (Coffea):

Coffee is an important beverage crop of the world. Coffee is one of the oldest plantation crops of India’. The Coffee plant was introduced in India by a Muslim Fakir, Bababudan Sahib in the 17th century. He brought the seeds from Arabia and first seedlings were raised in the Bababudan Hills. Its cultivation became firmly established during the early decades of the 19th century.

The British introduced the systematic cultivation of coffee on plantations in 1830. The first plantation was set up in Karnataka. The coffee plant is a small tree or shrub which is about 4 to 6 metres high when fully grown. Planters usually prune it to about 3 metres or less.

The shrub bears shiny green leaves and white fragrant flowers that bloom for only a few days. Six to seven months after the appearance of the flower, the fruit develops which is green in colour and changes to red and ultimately crimson when fully ripe.

The mature fruit resembles a cherry and grows in clusters attached to the branches with very short stems. Each berry contains two seeds or beans, surrounded by pulp. A coffee plant is usually six to eight years old before it bears a full crop. The coffee beans are dried, roasted, and ground into coffee powder to make the beverage.

Conditions of Growth:

Coffee is a typical highland crop of the tropics. It grows best at altitudes ranging from 1100 m to 2400 m.

1. Temperature: It needs temperatures rang­ing between 15°C to 28°C throughout the year. Frost is damaging to the crop. The plant has to be protected from hot winds, especially in the early stages of its growth. Direct rays of the Sun are harmful and so it is grown in the shade of trees. Dry weather is necessary for ripening.

2. Rainfall: It needs rainfall ranging between 125 cm to 250 cm, well distributed throughout the year.

3. Soil: Although coffee needs heavy rain­fall, a well-drained soil is essential. It grows best in volcanic soil on well drained hill slopes at el­evations ranging between 450 m to 1,800 m. The presence of humus is essential. In India, coffee is grown on red and laterite soils.

Methods of Cultivation:

Like most plantation crops, the cultivation of cof­fee is labour intensive. Plenty of skilled labour is required at every stage.

1. Sowing:

The land is cleared of all unwanted bushes and trees. The slopes are terraced and contour drains provided. Trees like the silver oak and jack fruit are planted a year in advance to provide shade. Seeds are planted in prepared nurseries. Between six months to two years they are transplanted in the fields in furrows, 3m apart. Planting is usually done during the rainy season. Many of the estates are interplanted with orange trees, cardamom and pepper vines to obtain ad­ditional income.

2. Harvesting:

Coffee shrubs bear fruit after three years and continue to yield fruit for 30 to 50 years. The shrub grows to a height of 4 to 6 metres but they are pruned to about 3 metres to make it easier for plucking the berries. Berries are plucked by hand. Branches that have borne fruit are pruned every year. This produces fresh wood for the succeeding crop. Coffee Arabica is ready for plucking in October-November and Coffee Robusta in January – February.

3. Processing, Sorting and Roasting:

After plucking the berries are processed to obtain the coffee beans. After the beans have been obtained, they are sorted according to size and quality. They are then roasted. Roasting gives brown colour and the familiar and pleasing aroma, flavour and taste of coffee. The more freshly roasted the beans, the better the coffee. For overseas export, coffee beans are packed into sacks of 60 kg. Roasting and the final processing is done in the importing country.

Areas of Production:

Coffee is cultivated in about 3.49 lakh hectares in India, mainly spread over 3 southern states namely, Karnataka (57.8 percent), Kerala (24.3 percent) and Tamil nadu (8.8 percent). Arabica and Robusta are the two varieties grown comprising of 48 percent and 52 percent of the area respectively. Production of about 2.80 lakh tonnes in 2002-03 from 1.70 lakh tonnes in 1990-91 is evidence of its buoyant growth.

The growth in production is motivated primarily by exports since over 80% of the coffee produced in the country is exported. The export of coffee during 2005-06 was Rs. 1731 crore as against Rs. 279 crore in 1997-98. The annual domestic consumption is around 50-60 thousand tonnes.

India’s area and production of coffee constitute only 3-4% of the world’s total plantations. Thus India is an insignificant producer of coffee and stands nowhere when compared with Brazil (25%), Columbia (15%) and Indonesia (7%).

However, India has progressed a lot in terms of absolute figures. Almost the entire area and production of coffee in India is shared among only the three southern states, namely Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka alone accounts for 52% of the area and over 3/4th of the production. Kodagu and Chikmagalur districts account for over 79% of the state’s total output.

Hassan has most of the remaining. About 10% of the country’s total production or about 62% of the total output of coffee in Tamil Nadu is raised in the Nilgiris and Dindigual (Anna) districts. Madurai Tirunelveli and Coimbatore districts contribute most of the remaining. Almost the entire production of coffee in Kerala, which is about 11% of the country’s total, is raised in Wayanad and Idukki districts.

Rubber (Hevea Brasillensis):

Rubber plantations were started in India by the British in 1902. The first plantation was in Kerala on the banks of the periyar Natural rubber is the latext of the tree Havea brasiliensis, native of the Amazon equatorial forest. Many plants produce latex capable of making rubber, but the Hevea tree has become the almost exclusive provider of natural rubber.

The economic importance of rubber arises from its elastic and insulating properties. It is also water-proof and air-tight. It is for these reasons that rubber is so widely used. It is used in the manufacture of automobile tyres, tubes, soles of shoes, sports goods, foam rubber, cushions, mattresse and insulating material for wires and cables.

Conditions of Growth:

A native of the equatorial forest, rubber trees grow best in areas with hot humid and wet conditions throughout the year. In India it grows in a narrow belt of approximately 400 kms extending from Kanyakumari in the South to the windward side of the Western Ghats, running parallel to it. This region is especially suited since it gets heavy rain from the S.W. Monsoons and some rain from the N.F. Monsoons.

1. Temperature: It requires temperatures ranging between 21 °C to 35°C. Temperatures below 20°C are unfavourable for the rubber trees.

2. Rainfall: Rainfall can vary between 200 cms to 400 cms but it should be well distributed throughout the year.

3. Soil: Freshly cleared forests with alluvial soil are ideal. In India, rubber is cultivated on porous, well-drained laterite soil.

Methods of Cultivation:

1. Sowing:

The plantation site is cleared of forest, levelled and proper drainage provided. Seedlings are planted 10 metres apart in rows. Legumnious creepers are planted between the seedling trees to prevent soil erosion and enrich the soil with nitrogen. Cover crops also provide some income to the farmers until the rubber trees reach maturity which usually takes 7 to 8 years.

Latex is a wheatish or yellowish milk-like substance containing about 33% dry rubber. It is cleaned and mixed with acetic acid; it changes into a coagulated soft wheatish mass after about 24 hours of slow heating on fire. It is rolled into sheets which are cleaned, dried and marketed.

2. Tapping:

Latex is obtained from the tree by tapping. The first cut is made about 1.5 metres from the ground at an angle of 30° from the horizontal. Cuts are made half-way around the circumfer­ence of the tree and sloped to the right. The cuts lead to a vertical groove to which a zinc pipe is attached. The latex drips through the groove and zinc pipe and is collected in a coconut-shell at­tached to the end of the zinc pipe.

Tapping is done early in the morning when the latex flows freely. A tapper attends to 250 to 400 trees a day. Tapping is stopped at noon when the latex from the coconut- shell is emptied in clean buckets and carried to the estate factory for processing.

Tapping is not done during the rains as it dilutes the latex. Trees are tapped for about 200 to 300 days in a year. The yield of the rubber tree varies according to the type of tree, fertility of the soil, the climatic conditions, the age of the tree and the skill of the tapper. A rubber tree yields latex for 25 to 30 years.

3. Processing:

Plantation rubber, in India is marketed in the sheet form.

(i) The collected latex is weighed, strained to remove impurities and coagulated into soft, spongy blocks known as coagulum, by adding formic acid or acetic acid.

(ii) They are then passed through rollers to squeeze out water and produce sheets.

(iii) The wet sheets are then hung on reapers in shade to remove the excess water.

(iv) They are then moved to smoke houses where they are thoroughly dried at 43°C to 60°C for several days.

(v) The sheets are then graded and packed in bales and marketed.

Varieties: RSS 4 and RSS 5

Areas of Production:

Kerala accounts for about 91 % of the total area under rubber plantation, Tamil Nadu accounts for 5% and the rest is accounted for by Karnataka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Rubber is cultivated mainly in Kerala state and the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Total area under rubber cultivation is nearly 5.67 lakh ha. About 97 percent of the country’s demand for natural rubber (NR) is met from domestic production.

Export of rubber has been insignificant, as the international price of rubber was most of the time lower than the domestic price However, the latest spurt in global price of rubber has resulted in some buoyancy in exports. During April to January, 2003 around 419, 00 tonnes of rubber has been exported as against 1,946 tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year.

To curb surge in imports of rubber in the QR free regime, the Government has enforced BIS standards on quality of imported rubber, increased import duty to 70 percent from 35 percent in 2001-02 and restricted import of rubber only through two ports, namely, Kolkata and Vishakhapatanam.

Coconut (Cocos Nucifera):

Coconut is an important crop and about 10 million people depend on coconut cultivation, processing and related activities. In India coconut is grown mainly along the coastal status of the country and also in the North-East region. The total area under coconut plantation was 1.85 million hectares in 2009-10. The production of coconut 447.24 thousand million tonnes in 2012.

The coir obtained from processing coconut husk is of high coconut value. Beside coir, shell based products have also gained entry into national and international markets. The coirpith made into brick like structure is now used for raising horticultural plants.

On account of exacting physical environment required by the plant, the cultivation of coconut in India is mostly confined to the coastal areas, only a small production coming from the interior parts of the peninsula and West Bengal and Assam.

Kerala is the largest producing state contributing over 38.36% of the total annual output 2009-10. Kozhikode, Trivandrum, Quilon, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Trichur accounts for over 3/4th of the total area and production.

Tamilnadu with nearly 20.15% of the total area is the second most important state in coconut cultivation. Over half of the production of the state is raised in Thanjavur, Coimbatore, S. Arcot, Madurai and Kanyakumari districts. Karnataka is the third largest producer of coconut, her share in the total area and production in the country being 15% and 11.09% respectively.

Over four-fifths of the state’s total production comes from Tumkur, Bangalore Mysore, Hassan, Chitmagalur, Chitradurgh Dakshin Kannada and Uttar Kannada districts. The interstate trade comprises all the three major coconut products: coconut, copra and coconut oil. Kerala accounts for 90% of the total quantity of coir products exported from the country.

Arecanut (Areca Catechu):

Arecanut is a tropical plant used for chewing with betel leaves and lime. Its stem is used for construction and leaves for thatching. India is the largest producer of arecanut. The crop provides cash not only to the farmers and planters but also to many others, who are engaged in the curing and trading of it.

Conditions of Growth:

The plant flourishes in temperatures of 15°C to 38°C. It requires rainfall ranging from 200 cms to 375 cms. It grows on a variety of soils ranging from well drained laterite, red loamy to alluvial soil. It grows at altitude upto 1000 metres.

Areas of Production:

India consumes 89 per cent of the world produce. Dry nuts are made from fresh ripe fruits. Nearly one-third of the total production reaches the consumer as ripe fruits. The production has gone up from 76 thousand tonnes in 1955-56 to 4 lakh tonnes in 2009-10. Small quan­tities of arecanut are exported to Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Aden, Kenya, Singapore and Pakistan etc.

Kerala is the largest producer accounting for 37% of the Indian production, the main districts being Kannur, Malappuram, Kollam, Kozhikode and Thrissur. In Karnataka it is grown in Dakshina Kannada, Uttar Kannada, Chikmagalur, Shimoga and Tumkur districts.

Assam produces nearly 1/4th of India’s arecanut. Ratnagiri and Kolaba districts of Maharashtra, Coimbatore and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu are other important districts. West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Pondicherry also producers some arecanut.


Spices constitute an important group of horticultural crops. India produces spices like turmeric, ginger, pepper, cardamom, coconut, arecanut, etc. Fifteen major spice crops have been singled out for development. Of these, black pepper is the most prominent for domestic as well as export con­sumption. The spiece production in India is currently at 5.73 million tonnes from an area of about 3.03 million hectare.

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa):

Turmeric is the native of the tropical lands of South-East Asia, grown extensively in India. It is an important condiment and has medicinal use.

Conditions of Growth:

Moderate to good rainfall is ideal for its cultivation. It is grown both under irrigation and is rainfed on the western coast. Sandy and clay loam are most suited.

India is an the largest producer of turmeric in the world followed by Pakistan. Its production more than fourfold increased from 152 thousand tonnes in 1950-51 to 793 thousand tonnes in 2009-10.

The area under this crop has recorded an increase from 1.30 lakh hectares in 1996-97 to 181 lakh hectares in 2009-10 with an annual growth rate of 5.37 per cent. Andhra Pradesh is the largest producer, producing about half of the total production of India. Andhra Pradesh is followed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa about 90% of the total production is consumed within the country and 10% is exported. The leading buyers of Indian turmeric are the USA, Russia, Japan, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Chillis (Capsicum Annum):

It is grown, throughout the country. India is the largest producer of Chilli pepper followed by China. The important producers, are Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

They provide about 75% of the country’s production. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh also produce chillies. It is a widely grown spice with a share in total production of 33.7 per cent. The demand for chilly as a spice and its oleoresins as a natural colouring material is growing in the domestic as well as international market.

Conditions of Growth:

It is grown upto elevations of 1,700 metres in areas receiving an annual rainfall of about 60 cms to 125 cms. Heavy rainfall leads to rotting of leaves and fruit. It requires a temperature between 10°C to 30°C.

Areas of Production:

Trade in chillies is mostly interstate. Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh export chillies. Bulk of quantity production is consumed locally.

Though almost every state in India produces some chillies, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka are the most important producer’s together accounting for nearly 2/3rd of the country’s annual output. Andhra Pradesh alone contributes 44% of the India’s total chillies production and has the highest yield. Karnataka with around 20% area and 12% production is another important chilly producing state.

Orissa contribute nearly 10% of the national chilly production. Chilly cultivation is concentrated in the 24 pargana districts of West Bengal, Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, Mahesena district of Gujarat and West Nimar and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh.

The production of Chillis has almost trebled from 351 thousand tonnes in 1950-51 to 654.00 thousand tonnes in 2005-06 with a record production of 1202 thousand tonnes in 2009-10. Although all states of India produce some quantity of Chillis.

Ginger (Zingiber Officinale):

Ginger is grown for its aromatic rhizomes which are used both as spice and medicines. India is the largest producer of ginger in the world producing about 80 per cent of the world production followed by China. Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and .West Bengal are other producers.

Conditions of Growth:

It is a tropical crop requiring high temperatures and rainfall of 125 to 250 cms. Shade is conductive for plant growth. Rich and well-drained soil is suitable for it. It is grown upto an altitude of 1,300 metres.

Dry ginger or sonth is obtained by cleaning and drying clean scrapped ginger, the ha yield of which is about 2,500-5,000 kg. Dry ginger is about one-fifth of the green by weight. India is the largest producer of ginger in the world, producing about 80% of the world production.

The production of ginger has increased by more than 21 times from a mere 15000 tonnes in 1950-51 to 834 million tonnes in 2009-10, it produced one-third of the total production of India. About 80-90% of total production of ginger is consumed within the country and still India is major exporter of ginger in the international market.

Pepper (Piper Nigrum):

India is the second largest producer of pepper, Vietnam being the largest producer. Pepper is an important spice which is used for flavouring food stuff. The shrub is believed to be indigenous to the rain forests of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. India contributes nearly 50% of the world’s total production. The black pepper is an unripe dried fruit while the skimmed ripe fruit is the white pepper, also used for flavouring food stuff.

Conditions of Growth:

Pepper is a perennial climber and is supported by trees. It can be grown between a minimum of 10°C and maximum of 30°C and high rainfall of over 200 cms. The crop is entirely unirrigated and is raised with the help of monsoon. Humid and moist climate is best suited for it. It thrives well on clay loams although it is largely grown on red loams and sandy loams. It is grown up to an altitude of 1.200 metres.

Areas of Production:

It is grown on an area of 195,000 ha with annual production of 51 thousand tonnes in 2009-10.

Kerala, by far, is the most important pepper producing state in India, the important districts being Kannur and Wayanad. Karnataka is the second largest pepper producing state after Kerala, mainly in D. Kannada and Kodagu districts. About 1/3rd of the total production of pepper finds its way to the foreign markets.

Cardamum (Elettaria Cardamommum):

Cardamam is known as the queen of aromatic spices and is mainly used for masticatory, flavouring and for medicines. It consists of dried capsules of the fruit of the same name. The seeds contain 2-8% of a strongly aromatic volatile oil.

Condition of Growth:

Cardamom is mostly grown at altitudes varying from 800 to 1600 metres. It grows in warm and humid climate, with temperature ranging between 15°C and 32°C and thrives best in the shade provided by the forest trees. A plentiful supply of humus and a fairly distributed annual rainfall of 150 to 600 cms is required. It thrives on well-drained rich forest loams and deep red and lateritic soils with plenty of humus and leaf mould.

Area and Production:

Almost the entire production of cardamom is raised on the hill ranges of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim. In Kerala, Idukki district has the heaviest concentrate of cardamom cultivation accounting for about 85% of the total area and production in the state.

Kodagu district accounting for 51% of the production is the leading producer in Karnataka, Hassan and Chikmagalur districts being other leading producers. The Cardamum production was 17.8 th tonnes on an area of 95.8 th hectares.