Black pepper farming and Cultivation in India

Black Pepper Cultivation

Common Varieties grown commercially and Yield per acre.

Panniyur 1 502
Panniyur 21052
Panniyur 3789
Panniyur 4514
Panniyur 5445
Shubakhara951
Sreekara 1085
Panchami 1133
Pournami 931
Girimunda912
Devam768
Malabar413

Reference : https://updatepublishing.com/journal/index.php/josac/article/view/4778/4278

Black pepper is commonly known as the king of spices and the Black gold in Kerala. Kerala is also one of the largest producers of Black pepper amounting to over 50% of the country’s production. Second in place is Karnataka, Followed by assam , Tamil Nadu and meghalaya. Black pepper originated in the western ghats of india and is grown in tropical and semi tropical regions. Scientifically called the piper nigrum, Black pepper falls in the piperaciea family. 

Black pepper requires moist soil but not water logged soil. The plant, being a climber, requires some sort of support. In kerala, the most common support used is Coconut, Arecanut and Jackfruit trees. In recent times, people have opted for concrete posts and coco peat filled mesh wire setups with great success. While black peppers can be grown at a distance of 3- 4 meters apart, trees like coconut cannot be placed so close. An alternative to this is concrete posts or mesh wire filled with coco peat and compost.

black pepper farming in kerala

Kerala is one of the best suited areas for black pepper cultivation in india. Wtih ample rainfall, the black pepper cultivation requires little to no external influence to grow. The monsoon which stretches from May to november ensures that the plants are always provided with water and the remaining months are always irrigated. November to April is usually the best time for harvesting Black pepper . 

Most hilly regions in kerala are known to cultivate black pepper . With almost every farm with coconuts where irrigation is mandatory, Black pepper cultivation as an intercrop with coconut is very normal in kerala. Other farmers with areca and jack fruit too have used these trees as support to grow coconut. Pepper, though an add on , intercrop for most farmers, amount to a great income over the period of time. While black pepper cultivation may be a side income for large farmers, farmers with smaller land area cultivate black pepper as the only crop. For small farmers, cultivating black pepper as a crop has several advantages too. To begin with, the crop is usually a one time investment with a long time return. 

Growing Black pepper plant at home

Growing Black pepper at home is easy. Bush pepper is a better alternative for people interested in growing black pepper at home. Bush pepper is the lateral stem of the black pepper vine which grows with support. With bush pepper, the plants are easier to care for and do not require a support system. To add to the benefits, bush pepper is easier to harvest as they are easy to reach. Bush pepper grows easily on pots and require the same care and treatment as the vine plant. The down side to growing bush pepper is that the yield is reduced quite a bit. With vine, the plant grows multiple lateral stems from which each stem produce the pepper corns. With a bush pepper , the plant is but just a lateral stem. There is limitations to the amount of pepper one stem can produce as compared to multiple lateral stems. 

Where is black pepper cultivated India?

Black pepper growing areas in india

Kerala contributes to over 50% of the pepper production in india Followed by Karnataka with over 35% production. Other states who are contributors include Tamil Nadu, Assam , Maharashtra, Meghalaya, wEst bengal, Tripura and nagaland. Pepper plants are very dependant on the climatic conditions and require a semi tropical or tropical weather with temperature between 20 and 30 degrees. High fluctuation in temperature is not suitable for pepper plantations which makes it hard to grow pepper in areas like Gujarat, Rajasthan etc.

black pepper farming business plan

When you consider cultivating pepper for commercial purpose, its important to have a business plan and understand what is required from your side for the plant and how much you can expect in returns from your cultivation and when you can get the returns too. Pepper plantation is not suitable for many places in india. Kerala is apt for cultivation of Black Pepper (most parts of kerala, not all). Parts of karnataka , specially areas like coorg is excellent for Black pepper cultivation. If you live in one of these 2 areas, You are in Luck. Dont be disheartened though, You can still cultivate black pepper in various other regions and with some small changes. For instance, if you are looking to grow black pepper in a place which is not apt for cultivation of black pepper, you will have to construct a green house or a green shade method to manage your environment. Watering is mandatory through out the year and provisions for the same is to be made. All these factors add up to the project cost and sometimes is not recommended.

Assuming that you are in a suitable area, Cultivation of Black pepper as a sole crop is expected, if you are looking at it for maximum returns. While you can plant pepper plants on Coconut or arecanut trees, the number of trees you can plant in one hectare is far lesser than the number of artificial support you can provide for the plants. For instance, you can construct approximately 1000-1200 Cement or bamboo posts as support for Black pepper in one acre. On the contrary, you can only plant 70 Coconut trees per acre or 600 Arecanut trees per acre. With maximum number or posts, you can essentially grow more number of pepper plants per acre. 

Choosing the right variety

Variety is key to good pepper cultivation. Currently Girimunda, Devam, Malabar and panchami are the high yielding varieties. But just choosign the plant based onthe yield is a common mistakes most farmers make. Each variety has its own pros and cons. Some varieties are suitable for a particular condition while other fare a lot better in another situations. Not all varieties will grow perfectly in your area. Finding the right variety which fits your soil and weather condition is important. Choosing the wring variety will only lead to poor plant health, Excessive labour and maintenance with Low yield. Find out which variety of Black pepper grows in your condition. Take into consideration the weather, soil and rainfall among other factors.

Once the Right variety is picked you need to know what infrastructure is required. Assuming that the weather and soil conditions are just right and the location is apt for growing Black pepper, all you need now is the plants and the setup to grow them. 

While black pepper can be grown as an intercrop with coconut or Arecanut among a long list of all trees, there is also an option of concrete posts or coco peat filled mesh wires.  If the location already has trees in it, then you can always use the trees as support and add concrete pillars or poles to fill in the space. This will maximize usage of space and increase the total number of plants. If you do not have trees, then the best option is to have concrete posts or wire mesh filled with cocopeat or leaf compost. 

Additional cost for Concrete posts or creating mesh beams will be approximately 1000 to 2000 Rs per pole. An acre will require anywhere between 1000-1200 Poles. Your total cost will be approximately 12,00,000 for the poles alone. 

You may require labour which will amount to 15,000 On the higher side.

Your next expense would be pepper plants itself. Good pepper plants are available from Agricultural universities. The cost could be anywhere between 20-30 Rs per Cutting. These are tender and usually will require you to leave in the pot/cover for a month if the roots are not set. Total of 2 plants are required per post 

black pepper bush plant

Black pepper plants are vines. They climb on trees or poles with support and can go up to 30 feet and sometimes more. Black pepper vines are stems and there are 3 types of stems. The vine itself which is the main stem, the Lateral stem which is where all the fruits set. The lateral stems are cut and rooted to create plants and these stems usually do not climb like a vine. These stems are usually grafted with other plants, commonly the brazilian pepper plant as they are tolerant to a lot of diseases which are common in pepper plants. Technically, The pepper plant, which is often referred to as bush pepper is a lateral stem from the vines of a pepper vine. 

Black pepper farming cost

Cost of planting and setup for a Black pepper cultivation starts with glearing the ground and setting up poles. If trees do exist, then things become a bit easier but not a lot. Setting poles usually costs money and you could do your own setup with concrete poles at roughly 1000 Rs per pole and it could go up to 4000 Rs if you purchase them. Concrete poles are easy to make but time consuming. You need iron rods, cement, sand and ¾ jelly stones. Setting it up and labour would be extra at the price of approximately 50 Rs per pole. This includes just digging and fixing the pole. 

An acre of land could fill in anywhere between 1000 to 1200 poles. Your initial cost for the poles alone is roughly 10 Lakh rupees and the price to set it up would be roughly 50,000 Rs. The setup cost alone would amount to roughly 11 to 12 lakh per acre.

Once the area is setup, the ground has to be prepared for plantation. This includes fertilizers , Farm yard manure and setup for water during the summer months. Drip irrigation is recommended. Drip irrigation for one acre land could cost you anywhere between 70,000 to 1 Lakh rupees. 

Other costs include harvesting , bi-annual fertilizers and processing of harvested black pepper seeds (Drying , cleaning, etc.). 

black pepper plant care

Black pepper Plants do require care. Initially, the plants need to be helped towards the support. This involves tying the vine to the tree or support with twines or strings. Once the aerial root is plugged on to the support, Which takes days and sometimes months, the vine will climb over the tree without much support. When it comes to plant care itself after the initial phase, its minimal apart from fertilizers, irrigation and occasional pruning of hanging vines. Time to time check for root rots and diseases is mandatory. Overall, the Black pepper lants require moderate to minimal care in most cases. 

black pepper plant growing conditions & Climate

When it comes to growing conditions and climatic conditions, Black pepper is very choosy. If the climatic conditions are not suitable, be sure that the plant will die. Any weather condition above 40 degree or below 10 degree is assured failure. A moderate temperature of 20-30 degree is preferred and most suitable. Soil should be well drained and the ph level should be between 5 and 7. When you look at climatic conditions you will see that the pepper plants are well suited for tropical weather. It thrives well in the tropics and does pretty badly elsewhere. With other weather conditions, though you may be able to grow black pepper, the maintenance and care for the plant will be high and sometimes overwhelming. 

black pepper producing countries

Black pepper is not just cultivated in india. Though black pepper originated in india and most of India used black pepper during ancient times, Black pepper is grown in many parts of the world today. Vietnam and Indonesia Produce more black pepper in the world than india. As a matter of fact, vietnam produces 3 times more black pepper than india at 163 Kilo tonnes per year as opposed to indias production of 53 Kilo tonnes per year. 

Other countries that produce black pepper include China and Brazil

Is black pepper farming profitable?

When it comes to Profits, Black pepper could easily be one of the few crops that make a difference in farming. Apart from a few considerations including the right conditions, weather and rainfall, Black pepper is one of the easiest crops to grow and profit from. Lets take a short look into the profitability of Black Pepper farming.

black pepper farming profit

Black pepper plants last over 30 years and commercially, most farmers will let their plants last 12-20 years. With concrete poles, or a good setup, small farmers have only a one time investment for 10 years or more and the returns are generous. Each plant can produce an average of 5 KG Pepper per vine and each pole can hold 3-4 vines. With a 1000 plant capacity per acre, the average yield per acre for black pepper is around 5 Tonnes. 

The average price per quintal of black pepper (Dried ) is 5,000 and per tonne is 2.5 Lakh Rs. With 5 Tonnes. The price is for undried pepper which is wet and green. Unfortunately pepper which is green and wet are not taken in the mandi and you will require dry black pepper to sell in a mandi. One Kg of Green Wet pepper will amount to 300 grams to 400 grams of Black pepper. Taking the lower side, you can expect somewhere around 200 Grams of black pepper from a Kilo of Green which amounts to 1 Tonne of Black pepper in an acre. The total revenue would amount to roughly 4 Lakh Rupees to 5 Lakh rupees.

Undoubtedly, Black pepper is profitable. With minimal investment and moderate care, if the weather is feasible, Black pepper is one of the Most profitable crops in kerala. While most farmers figure out how to make 1 Lakh per acre, making 4-5 Lakhs in the same land is clearly a great profitable business. With intercropping , its one of the best crops to add additional revenue. Ith 2000 Plants, the possibility of making an additional 3-4 Lakh rupees every year is a dream come true for most farmers.

Average price for Black pepper (Dried) : Rs 400 Per KG

Poles Per acre1000
Plants per acre2000
Yield per Vine (Bare Minimum)2 KG
Total Yield per acre with 2000 Plants4000 KG

Expenses : 

Land preparation15000
Poles100,000
Cost of plants60000
Labour100,000
Fertilizers25000
Irrigation (Drip Setup one time)75000
Weeding25000
Miscellaneous50000
Total450,000

Income Chart

ExpenseIncomeProfit / Loss
Year 14500000-450000
Year 22000000-650000
Year 32000000-850000
Year 4200000400000-650000
Year 5200000800000-50000
Year 620000016000001550000

**The fourth year will produce half kg of black pepper per vine

**The fifth year will produce 1 KG of black pepper Per vine

*** From the sixth year onwards, the yield of black pepper would be 2 KG per year per vine.

It will take 6 years for a black pepper to make profit. First 2 years of pepper plantation is usually a no profit scenario after which farmers will start getting yield. Notable yield will start from the 4th year and will show full yield in the 6th year forward. 

Propagation of Black pepper Plants

Black pepper plants are propagated from cuttings. The vine puts stems which climb up after the second or third year. These are vines which are best for propagation. These vine cuttings are used to propagate, true to variety plants. Once propagated, the plants are allowed to rest for at least 3 months befor planting in the field. The best time to Propagate Black pepper in kerala is during march and april when the temperature is high and its summer.

Propagation from seed usually takes a lot more time than propagation from cuttings and often do not render trued to fruit plants. Meaning, your pepper plant may be of a completely different variety of black pepper with lower yield (and if lucky a higher yield) plants. Commercial propagation always rely on cuttings for propagation. 

Fertilizers for Black pepper Plantation

Fertilizers should be applied 30 cm away from plant at the depth of 15 cm

Fertilizers are very minimal when it comes to black pepper and application too is very easy. Fertilizers are applied only once in a year and consist of 10 KG FYM (Farm yard Manure), 500 Gram ammonium sulphate , 1 KG super phosphate , 100 Gram potash per year per plant or per Pole. Application of 500 Grams of Slaked lime is recommended every alternate years. If you have live plants like coconut, chances are you will not require any special fertilizers for your pepper plants as you will be applying fertilizers for your support plants. Coconuts are usually fertilized every 45 or 60 days and these fertilizers should suffice for your black pepper plants in most cases.

Always ensure that the fertilizers are applied at a distance of 1 feet from the pepper plants.