The Sabarimala pilgrim season has brought cheers to the pepper farming community in the fag-end of 2022 with a better price realisation for their produce.

Traders say that farmers are selling 500 gm packs of pepper at ₹500 to pilgrims, mainly from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The two-month-old pilgrim season which will conclude on January 14 is expected to generate more demand.

According to the farming community, the harvest season has started in Kerala with new crop arrivals in the market. Those who are holding the crop are now releasing it, fearing a price drop at the end of the pilgrim season.

With an average trade of 20-25 tonnes in the auctions, traders said the prices of ungarbled pepper stood at ₹496 per kg and ₹515 for garbled one in the Kochi terminal market.

Kishore Shamji, president of Indian Pepper and Spices Trade Association (IPSTA), said the year 2022 was good with prices remaining at a steady level at ₹500 per kg. Since Indian pepper prices are ruling higher at $6,500 per tonne and a subdued demand from the Chinese markets, several producing countries such as Vietnam ($3,000), Brazil ($2,900), Sri Lanka ($5,100), Indonesia ($3,500) are looking at Indian buyers.

India is one of the leading consumers of pepper like the US and China. Hence, the shipments into the country may hit domestic market prices, especially when smuggled imports are on the rise through borders. Pepper imports through official channels in November stood at 1,531 tonnes, he said

With the onset of the winter season, Shamji said the domestic market has been witnessing a good demand with spice manufacturers, inter-State dealers and exporters covering the stock. There is a good demand for green pepper with its farm gate prices moving up from ₹130 to ₹150. Likewise, there is a good demand in Europe for dehydrated pepper (dried it in very slow temperature with a bulk density of 350 gm) and pepper in brine.

Results delayed

However, the delay in getting the test results of samples sent to Germany before making shipments is posing a challenge. The government should take measures for testing in India by availing the technology used by the German agency to save time and cost for exporters, he said.

Asked on the outlook for pepper in 2023, Shamji said farmers are comfortable with current prices. If the imports continue like this, there could be pressure on prices for the domestically produced commodity. The weather-related issues and climate change have an impact on production and the sector anticipates a 10-15 per cent drop in 2023 from the last year’s figure of 75,000 tonnes, he added.