The efforts to promote coffee cultivation in the temperate zone have started yielding the results and the area under the coffee plantation has increased four times from 7.34 hectares in 2014-15 to 30.12 hectares in 2018-19.
The Agriculture Department has provided 73,780 plants for coffee cultivation in Kangra, Mandi, Hamirpur, Bilaspur and Una.
Under ideal conditions, the temperature for coffee cultivation should range between 4 degree and 35 degree C and the plants grow under the shade of some other tree.
These should be protected from frost and specific locations in the selected districts had been identified, said Director, Agriculture, Desh Raj Sharma.
The plants start bearing fruit in four years and take eight years to be fully grown, producing 2,000 kg-2,500 kg beans per hectare, said technical expert, Agriculture Department, DS Kanwar.
The department had launched a pilot project to introduce coffee cultivation in 2014. The Central Coffee Institute, Chikmagalur, Karnataka, had recommended two varieties of coffee, Arabica and Robusta, for cultivation and provided sufficient quantity of seeds for plantation during February and March.
During a trial, it was observed that the Robusta variety required more irrigation as compared to Arabica and farmers were told to raise exclusive plantations of Arabica. The survival rate of coffee saplings was good and polyhouses were used to raise the temperatures by five degrees as coffee plants are sensitive to extreme cold, snow and frost.
Coffee can emerge as a major cash crop in the lower hills and can be grown on wasteland without any environmental fallout, says farmers of Bilaspur and Kangra, who experimented with coffee cultivation even before the government took the initiative.
However, the department is facing marketing problem as there is no major help from the Coffee Board of India which has not seriously considered the request of setting up five small units (industry) in coffee-growing area. Raw coffee fetches Rs 350 to Rs 400 per kg and if processing units are set up, farmers will earn more.
Coffee plants were sown on a trial basis in 2014 on 7.34 hectares in Kangra, Mandi, Una and Bilaspur districts when JC Rana was director agriculture
10 kg of Arabica and 5 kg of Robusta plants were provided by the Central Coffee Institute, Chikmagalur, Karnataka, and 112 plots were identified in the four districts
4,200 saplings were planted on two hectares in Palampur, Nurpur, Kangra and Sarkaghat, 2,400 were grown on one hectare in Chintpurni and 6,700 plants were sown on three hectares in Ghumarwin and Bilaspur