Green Beans from India
Coffee production in India is dominated in the hill tracts of South Indian states, with Karnataka accounting for 71%, followed by Kerala with 21% and Tamil Nadu (5% of overall production with 8,200 tonnes). Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee grown in the shade rather than direct sunlight anywhere in the world. There are about 250,000 coffee growers in the country; 98% of them are small growers. As of 2009, Indian coffee made up just 4.5% of the global production. Almost 80% of Indian coffee is exported; 70% is bound for Germany, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, United States, Japan, Greece, Netherlands and France. Italy accounts for 29% of the exports. Most of the export is shipped through the Suez Canal.
Coffee is grown in three regions of India with Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu forming the traditional coffee growing region, followed by the new areas developed in the non-traditional areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa in the eastern coast of the country and with a third region comprising the states of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh of Northeastern India, popularly known as “Seven Sister States of India".
Indian coffee, grown mostly in southern states under monsoon rainfall conditions, is also termed as “Indian monsooned coffee". Its flavour is defined as: "The best Indian coffee reaches the flavour characteristics of Pacific coffees, but at its worst it is simply bland and uninspiring”. The two well known species of coffee grown are the Arabica and Robusta. The first variety that was introduced in the Baba Budan Giri hill ranges of Karnataka in the 17th century was marketed over the years under the brand names of Kent and S.795.
Initially, Arabica was popular. However, as result of serious infestation caused to this species by coffee rust, an alternative robust species of coffee, appropriately named as robusta and another hybrid between liberica and Arabica, a rust-tolerant hybrid variety of Arabica tree became popular. This is the most common variety of coffee that is grown in the country with Karnataka alone accounting for 70% of production of this variety.
In 1942, the government decided to regulate the export of coffee and protect the small and marginal farmers by passing the Coffee VII Act of 1942, under which the Coffee Board of India got established, operated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The government dramatically increased their control of coffee exports in India and pooled the coffees of its growers. In doing so, they reduced the incentives for farmers to produce high-quality coffee, so quality became stagnant.
Over the last 50 years, coffee production in India has grown by over 15 percent. From 1991, economic liberalisation took place in India, and the industry took full advantage of this and cheaper labour costs of production. In 1993, a monumental Internal Sales Quota (ISQ) made the first step in liberalising the coffee industry by entitling coffee farmers to sell 30% of their production within India. This was further amended in 1994 when the Free Sale Quota (FSQ) permitted large and small scale growers to sell between 70% and 100% of their coffee either domestically or internationally. A final amendment in September 1996 saw the liberalisation of coffee for all growers in the country and a freedom to sell their produce wherever they wished.