G.K. Nair

Kochi, Feb.18

CARDAMOM prices remained depressed despite thin arrivals for want of buying support at auctions in Kerala and Tamil Nadu during this week.

Upcountry buyers were inactive, while exporters kept away. Availability of cardamom imported from Guatemala at low prices in the north Indian markets is pointed out as the reason for the weak buying support from the domestic dealers.

According to market sources in Bodinayakannur, superior quality cardamom from Guatemala has started arriving in the markets in north India. They said 7 mm capsules from Guatemala are being imported at Rs 270 a kg, while 7.5 mm at Rs 345 a kg. Whereas the wholesale price of 7mm cardamom produced in the country is Rs 320-330 a kg, they claimed.

The current bulk prices at auctions in Kerala showed a decline of Rs 5 a kg. However, prices of bold and coloured varieties were up by Rs 10 a kg.

The arrivals have been shrinking as the picking is in the final rounds and it is expected be over by the month-end. But, harvesting in the plantations having genuine irrigation facilities might continue for few more rounds.

"Market failed to improve despite the thin supply and the wide gap between the current crop and the next crop expected in June/July," Mr P.C. Punnoose, Managing Director, Cardamom Processing and Marketing Company, the major auctioneers, in Kumily told Business Line on Friday.

He said if the current arrivals were any indication, production this year could be less than the previous season. The growing areas are also experiencing dry spell for the several weeks, he said.

Export buying was negligible during the week. According to export sources, the dealers in the overseas market are holding carryover stock of Guatemala cardamom and hence, they are not interested to buy Indian cardamom at higher prices.

The airfreight assistance of Rs 45 a kg offered by the Spices Board, in fact, failed to make any positive impact as is evident from the volume of export so far during the current fiscal as compared to the previous season, market sources pointed out. As a result the total exports of cardamom during the current fiscal is likely to be far below the target of 750 tonnes.

The total sales through auctions during the current season up to February 16 from the total arrivals of 3,699 tonnes were 3,427 tonnes. Sales during the same period last season were 3,623 tonnes from the arrivals of 3,950 tonnes.

The weighted average price during the current season stood at Rs 305.57 a kg as against Rs 371.18 last season. Prices of the graded varieties were AGEB Rs 445 - Rs 455, AGB Rs 345-Rs 355, AGS Rs 330 - Rs 335 and AGS 1 Rs 295 - Rs 305 a kg.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 19, 2005)
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