Cloves import soars in 2017 as output drops

GK Nair Kochi | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on March 24, 2017

Due to its non-viability, several clove farmers in Kerala have shifted to other crops

Imports of cloves into the country nearly trebled in five years, while the fall in indigenous production continued due to vagaries of weather and drop in area under the crop.

The indigenous output in 2017 is estimated at around 1,000 tonnes, according to growers in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

In 2010-11, imports were at 7,000 tonnes, valued at ₹153.37 crore, against 20,235 tonnes valued at ₹1,045.42 crore in 2015-16, according to Spices Board sources.

Official statistics for 2014-15 put Indian output at 1,260 tonnes from a total area of 2,380 ha. Of this, 1,000 tonnes were from 1,030 ha in Kanyakumari.

“We were expecting a comparatively good crop this year. But, a fortnight before harvest, strong winds blew through the estates for several days, breaking the clove tree branches bearing ripe fruits. As a result, we have lost about 30 per cent of the crop,” S Subramaniam, a major grower in Nagercoil, told BusinessLine.

Farmers in Idukki district of Kerala, where clove was widely cultivated until about two decades ago, cut down the trees as the prices turned out to be non-remunerative, and shifted to other crops. Besides, clove harvesting requires a lot of labour, which is scarce in Kerala.

PA Thomas, a former grower in Idukki, told BusinessLine that vagaries of weather also had a hand in farmers giving up clove cultivation.

According to Subramaniam, in the Nagercoil market, the buyers are offering ₹680-720 a kg depending on the quality. “They know that the growers have to sell now to settle the wages with the labourers and hence the are offering lower rates,” he said.

In the upcountry markets, imported produce is sold at prices ranging between ₹500 and ₹600 a kg, sources said.

India is a net importer of this commodity, with an annual demand ranging between 15,000 and 22,000 tonnes, trade sources claimed.

Global prices

International prices are at about $7,000-8,000. India mainly imports from Sri Lanka, Comoros, Madagascar, Zanzibar and Indonesia, with a 4-9 per cent import duty. The import duty from Brazil is 36 per cent.

Sources said several export-oriented units are importing cloves from Brazil at $5,500 a tonne under advance licence for value addition and re-exporting and selling on the domestic market using the 120-days-long rope. “It’s high time that this kind of illegal activities were curbed, as it is hurting the farmers and traders here,” the sources added.

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Published on March 24, 2017
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