Restricted buying coupled with subdued demand in upcountry markets, have dragged pepper prices lower. Prices have declined by ₹14 per kg in the past two weeks. Pepper prices now rule at ₹502 for the ungarbled and ₹522 for the garbled varieties at the Kochi terminal market.

The farming community attributed the price drop to curtailed buying by major buyers such as masala manufacturers on account of financial closing. Dealers in the primary market are looking to sell the commodity to settle their financial commitments before March 31 so as to avail of interest concessions. This has led to higher availability of physical pepper in the spot market, which is also a reason for the drop in spot prices of pepper.

Besides, increased selling pressure from Karnataka growers and planters has helped dealers in the State to offer lower prices. This has also resulted in prices declining in major consuming markets.

Kishor Shamji, co-ordinator, Indian Pepper and Spice Traders, Growers, Planters Consortium – Kerala chapter, alleged that there was increased availability of Vietnam pepper in the consuming markets such as Delhi and Kanpur ICD as the commodity was being brought inside the country in the garb of scrap high-value car parts. This has also impacted prices in the domestic market.

However, he hopes prices would show an upward trend from April as buyers are expected to come forward to cover requirements that have been postponed.

Asked if the domestic growers were anticipating increased arrival of Sri Lankan pepper in view of the crisis in the island country, Shamji said imports will be lesser in April as the current harvest season in the island nation is over and starts by May. Sri Lankan pepper prices are ruling at $6,100 per tonne, but they are not keen to sell, Shamji said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of MPs from Kerala and farmer organisations have submitted a representation to the government on the issue of the minimum import price on pepper so as to protect Indian pepper farmers.