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Monday, Mar 15, 2004

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Cardamom output may fall this season

G. K. Nair

Kochi , March 14

SEVERE drought conditions prevailing in the cardamom growing areas in Kerala have hit crop production as an estimated 25 per cent of plants have dried up.

The worst affected areas are Nedumkandam, Udumbanchola, Santhanpara, Rajkumari, Poopara. Even in plantations which have irrigation facilities, cardamom crop has been badly affected owing to drought, growers in the Idukki district told Business Line. As a result, there would not be any picking of the last crop, they said. This would result in a drop of about 10-15 per cent in the overall production this season. According to them, the crop loss due to the drought could be around Rs 10 crore.

Last year, because of the summer showers there was a flow of cardamom, albeit thin from the plantations even after the end of the season. Given the prevailing weather conditions, such a flow this year is unlikely, they said. On the other hand, the disappointed farmers, especially those with smallholdings, are not doing any farm management practices also, the growers said.

However, trading sources said that almost 95 per cent of the crop has already been harvested. They said that unlike the previous years the area has not received any summer showers this year and if this dry spell continues, it will have a negative impact on the next crop.

The prices, they said, continued to drop for want of buying support. Up-country buyers have not become active after the Holi festival. The exporters are also quiet. Traders in Bodinayakannur in Tamil Nadu and Kumily in Kerala said that they were facing liquidity problem because of delay in payments from their up-country clients. In fact, many have burnt their fingers following the fall in prices, they said.

Some of the auctioneers are understood to have suspended the auction till April due to financial problems. The arrivals have also become thin.

Prices of current bulk were Rs 270-290 a kg. Despite squeezed supply of the 8-mm bold, this superior variety was fetching only Rs 500-505 a kg, while 7 mm was available at Rs 390-395 a kg and yet there were no buyers, market sources pointed out.

Arrivals at the auction on Saturday at Vandanmedu showed a decline. The prices of medium bulk here were Rs 280-300 while that of the floating bulk Rs 330-340 a kg.

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