The cocoa being collected directly from the farmers

At some places in Idukki, we may suddenly find ourselves surrounded by these hills that looks just like huge tall walls. Such is the steepness of many of these mountains. Looking out from the car window, our eyes may not reach the sky for these tall hills might obstruct the line of sight just like that.  All we could see between the passing of fog would be these steep huge rock mountains all the way till the sky.

Today, we were procuring the cocoa after a week’s break. The procurement last week had to be skipped due to heavy rain. Even today, we could at several places on our road see the aftermath of the heavy downpour from the previous days. Landslides at multiple places had even closed down many roads in the district. Even at our route, there were instances we had to find our ways around these huge piles of mud and soil that blocked the roads.

Like last time, we left our car at the Ramapuram unit and headed up to Idukki in our pickup truck. The driver Mathai Cheattan has been driving around the high range for decades now and at every hairpin and at every junction, he had one or the other story to tell us about the place.

We reached Mariapuram by 9 am as usual and started out the procurement wasting no time. The rain had halted for some time in the morning and we had to cover the maximum distance before the rain starts.

We had truly expected a good quantity to be procured this time because it is after a week’s break we coming today. And many of the usual farmers did have a pleasing quantity this time, but even then, its higher only compared to the last weeks and not anywhere near to the quantity they actually used to get if not for this heavy rain. The local market rate was 40 to 43 rupees today and the IOFPCL as promised bought the beans for a rate 53 to 55 rupees per kg.

A few of our farmers like Mathews and Joshi from Mariapuram and Sunny from Thekkinthand and all had about 60 to 80 kgs kept ready for us today. Joshi and his son were still cutting the cocoa pods to extract the beans when we reached. His son was still in college but thanks to the rain, the district collector had declared today too, like much of the last week, a holiday for schools and colleges.

But at the same time, many farmers had not harvested the cocoa even this time due to this rain. It is not only that it’s very difficult to harvest in this rain, but also that a good portion of the yield goes feverish if cultivated now at this weather is the reason why the quantity still stays this low for our procurement.

We had our lunch from Murikkasseri at about 2 pm. The sky was clear for some time at noon and it even felt like its going to be sunny for the rest of the day. But it was the clouds just taking a break before it started to pour down heavily by evening. We fastened the procurement rally after lunch because we knew it would be difficult to travel down the hills if it gets late.

Many of the small farmers too were still giving us what they have even if it was less than 10 kgs, and we drove all the way till all of their homes no matter the quantity. Like Mr Chacko who had only 7 kg of first quality beans to give us today and he himself tells us the yields won’t be better for the next few more months but also promises to give us whatever he can even next week.

We were finished by about 5 and headed back to Ramapuram with what all we could get. The fog was too blinding by nightfall, and this time a state transport bus guided us down the hills. Out driver Mathai chettan could see nothing else but the two back lamps of the bus we were tailing. It was enough for him to judge the road and take us and the 400 kgs of beans we procured today safely to the drying unit.