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Poor rainfall may hit cardamom crop

G.K. Nair

A cardamom plant in Kerala's Idukki district

KOCHI, July 5

INADEQUATE rain fall in major cardamom growing areas in Kerala's Idukki district is likely to impact the crop this season.

According to growers in various parts of the district where cardamom is grown, the rainfall so far has been less by more than 50 per cent. ``The total rainfall during January-June was 40 cm as against the normal of 85 cm,'' they said. As a result, the early crop is very poor and harvesting is likely to commence in late August, according to Mr B. Prabhakar of Pampadumpara estate, a large cardamom grower.

Setting of capsule had been affected by deficient rains and ``if the current weather conditions continue, then there could be drop in production by 20-25 per cent from that of last season,'' he told Business Line.

Besides, the El Nino phenomenon is also expected to affect the weather during the current season. Even in this condition certain varieties such as Njallani is having good yield, while the old varieties have been badly hit by the dry spell.

At present 40 per cent of the area is under high-yielding varieties that contribute 65 per cent of the total production, whereas the old varieties contribute only to 35 per cent. Yield per acre of Njallani is around 300 kg of dried capsules, while that of old varieties is 80-100 kg.

Due to unfavourable weather conditions, there has been no capsule setting in the Mysore varieties. July-September is the critical period when plants require good rains. The average rainfall received by the region during the year is 200 cm. The crop totally depended on rains spread over the season with intermittent sunshine. During the past three days, the monsoon has picked up, but it is yet to intensify and must continue through the coming weeks.

According to market sources, the prices have shot up to Rs 800 a kg for unselected varieties. ``There are virtually no arrivals in the market,'' they said.

In the international market, the current price is $12 per kg. The export demand is expected to commence in August and is likely to pick up early as Ramadan falls in October this year. Besides, the domestic consumption is also very good.

Given this scenario ``whether we would have enough quantity of superior AGEB variety for export is a matter of concern,'' said traders. The sources said about 25 tonnes of cardamom was imported recently through the Tuticorin Port under-invoicing the price at $4 per kg. The Customs authorities are said to be holding the consignment though.

Total production of cardamom during last season, according to official estimates, was over 9,000 tonnes. During the first two months of the current fiscal, about 125 tonnes have been exported at a unit value of Rs 738 per kg as against 115 tonnes at Rs 583.70 per kg during the corresponding period last year.

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