Cardamom growers are worried over soaring mercury levels and delayed summer rain as they could impact production in the upcoming season.

Growers in Vandanmedu in Idukki -- the main cardamom production centre-- said the temperature normally in the region during March was around 30 degrees, but it has gone up to 34 degrees this season, which may lead to crop damage if the situation prolongs. The growing regions are supposed to receive a couple of good showers in March, but so far there has been hardly any indication to this effect. The survival of cardamom plants and its yield in the next crop will greatly depend on the rains in a fortnight. Cardamom plantations require irrigation for the survival of the plants and the water scarcity in the absence of rains is also posing a concern, they said.

According to traders, the market is more or less steady with an average price realisation of ₹1,500, witnessing good upcountry demand in the Holi season. It is pointed out that the Ramzan sales and adverse climatic conditions boosted the market even after the declaration of Lok Sabha elections.

Spices Board fiat

S.B. Prabhakar, a cardamom planter in Idukki, said cardamom prices have collapsed due to copious arrivals from December till date. This has been further exacerbated by the Spices Board’s direction on providing a full bank guarantee for the quantity of auction pooled by the auctioneers. Though it is a welcome step it needs to be implemented only after due consultations with the auctioneers. Auctioneers need to be taken into full confidence before implementing the proposal, he said.

Referring to the export market, he said Guatemala has seen a sharp fall in crop to around 30,000 tonnes this year from 54,000 tonnes last season. There is a possibility of Indian cardamom production beating Guatemala for the first time since 1982-83. The current prices are nearly on par with Guatemala cardamom prices and could spur export demand in the coming weeks. However, shipping delays due to the Red Sea crisis are causing bottlenecks for now. If exports pick up, prices could recover later this month and in April, he said.

With El Nino still in place and blistering heat, the prices could head higher if cardamom growing areas miss rains in March. If rains are delayed till around April 10 to 20, this will lead to a fall in output next season and could push prices higher, he added.