Lockdown takes a toll on cardamom; shipments to Gulf countries in limbo

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

Hazy horizon Exporters feel that even if the market opens up by August-September, there will be severe restrictions   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

Growers saddled with unsold stocks as Ramadan export potential goes awry

The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a shadow over India’s cardamom export prospects, particularly to Gulf countries during the holy Ramadan month, which begins on April 21 and runs up to May 20.

Exporters say Indian cardamom -- especially the 7 to 8 mm capsules -- was dominating in the Gulf markets because of its quality and price competitiveness vis-a-vis the Guatemalan variety. With the Gulf markets in the grip of the pandemic, cardamom exports from India have come to a standstill.

However, a Kochi-based exporter said his company is pinning hopes on the revival of exports to Saudi Arabia, which was suspended following issues connected with pesticide residue levels. The kingdom is reported to have taken positive steps in modifying the MRL levels, as Indian cardamom is a major ingredient in qahwa, a traditional coffee drink of the region.

Missed chance

It may be recalled that the issues connected with pesticide residue limits imposed by Saudi had impacted the prospects of Indian cardamom. Exports of the spice in 2019-20 was around 500 tonnes valued at ₹150 crore compared to 2,000 tonnes in the previous year.

M Dhanavanthan, an exporter based in Bodinayakanur in Tamil Nadu, told BusinessLine that exporters have missed a business opportunity in the Ramadan period and the situation has made it even more difficult to clear the stocks. Most of the stocks are lying with farmers and traders. Only if the stocks are cleared, planters can invest in new crop, for which the first picking season begins by the end of May or early June.

Though the export market is likely to open up by August-September, there could be more stringent measures in the post-Covid days, he added.

The auctioneers in Vandanmedu said the stoppage of auctions since mid-March has caused accumulation of stock, leading to cash crunch to growers. It is estimated that around 800 tonnes of cardamom valued at ₹200 crore could not be disposed of due to the suspension of auctions.

Bodinayakanur in Theni district, which is the primary trade centre for cardamom, is also a hotspot for the coronavirus. This has hindered the movement of cargo and traders. With the auctions suspended, there is confusion over pricing among farmers.

Published on April 16, 2020

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