The cardamom industry has alleged that the Guatemala produce is being mixed with Indian grades in auction lots, particularly at the sales in Bodinayakanur, Tamil Nadu.

Voicing concern, cardamom exporters in Bodinayakanur said such a move would affect the quality of Indian cardamom and authorities should act to stop such illegal practices, if found to be true. Reports reaching here say Guatemala cardamom is imported cheaply and sold in India, which would affect the domestically produced raw material, they said.

Similarly, black pepper farmers have been raising hue and cry for a long time on the availability of imported pepper in the terminal markets for mixing it with Indian produce.

A leading auctioneer at the Spices Park in Puttady in Idukki said the possibility of mixing Indian cardamom with Guatemalan products cannot be ruled out. This is mainly because of a bumper crop in Guatemala during the current season. The production has been pegged at around 45,000 tonnes, forcing Guatemalan growers to opt for desperate sales in all avenues to dispose of the stock. But such cardamom could be of inferior quality and there is no mechanism to check the imported stuff in the auction lots.

Imports for value-addition

Saudi Arabia is the major buyer of Guatemala cardamom followed by India. As per the government policy, India can import cardamom for value addition in exports. The price of Guatemala stuff is $17 per kg for 7-8 mm grades compared with $22 for the Indian commodity.

Another auctioneer said split, sick and light capsules from Guatemala might be available in the domestic market after entering through illegal routes and its major beneficiaries are pan masala and gutka manufacturers in North India. Since these firms have the opportunity to get the commodity at their doorstep, the possibility of these imported stuff entering into the auction platform is remote and reports in this regard are likely to be rumours. With the import duty at ₹350, it would be unviable for the parties to mix imported cardamom in the auction lots for selling it in the domestic market, he added.

When contacted, BN Jha, Director (Marketing), Spices Board, said the matter had been taken up with the Customs Department and requested that Customs officers at the international borders, particularly with Nepal to tighten the vigil to prevent the pilferage of such imported small cardamom intended for Nepal into Indian markets and to take suitable preventive measures to protect the interests of domestic cardamom growers. “Based on any further inputs we will again be requesting for tightening the vigilance to the government and trade”, he said.