A drop in the prices of cardamom has forced a section of growers in parts of Idukki, one of India’s biggest cardamom-growing regions. to reportedly shift to production of black pepper

With average prices of cardamom hovering at ₹800 per kg, much below the cost of production at ₹1,000., Farmers who had converted lands from black pepper to cardamom, are now in a reverse migration. If the situation continues unchanged, more farmers could shift to other crops in the next two years, said a source in the farming community.

Farmers who had taken lands on lease are either returning the same or demanding a sharp reduction in lease rentals. The source pointed out that farmers have reduced inputs for their crop by over 50 per cent in the current season, which would lead to a further drop in quality.

Traders said cardamom farmers are in distress, with prices dropping from a peak of ₹4,000 in 2019. Besides, the arrival of inferior cardamom, especially sick varieties, is a further dampener in the market.

Excess supply

P.C.. Punnoose, CEO, CPMCS Ltd, Thekkady, attributed the price drop to excess supply in the market in the absence of demand. The stock accumulated by traders, increased production and a rise in the area under cultivation by small and marginal farmers in non-traditional areas had compounded growers’ woes. With new entrants farming on 2-5 acres, there has been a manifold rise in production. Besides, those who had hoarded the crop in anticipation of a price surge, have liquidated their stock following the fall in price.

Migration ‘not possible’

However, C. Sadasivasubramaniam, secretary, Kerala Cardamom Growers’ Union, said migration from cardamom to other crops is not possible under the Cardamom Hill Reserve Rules. The title deed of the land stipulates only cardamom cultivation. The current shift – may be in very limited numbers – on leased lands in non-traditional areas, which will not have a significant impact on production.

But he said farmers are unable to maintain farmlands as the cost hovers at ₹1.25-2.5 lakh per hectare. This has resulted in the idling of lands.

With the advent of small growers, S.B. Prabhakar, Chairman, Association of Planters of Kerala, said while the quantity has increased, the quality has dipped. The requirement for exports is good quality. The arrivals during August-December will decide the future course of prices. There has been a rapid expansion in the planted area from 2019 and coupled with good husbandry practices, arrivals have surged. The Covid pandemic has led to sluggish demand in the upcountry markets and the pesticide issue has prevented largescale exports to Saudi Arabia. Prices can improve only when supply abates.

APK is studying the matter and is in the process of approaching the Government to provide air freight subsidy for cardamom exportsas our current prices are competitive with Guatemala, he added.