Cardamom growers in Idukki are switching to pepper cultivation as prices fall.
A section of cardamom growers in Idukki, one of India’s largest cardamom-growing regions, is apparently moving to black pepper farming.
Cardamom prices are currently hovering at ₹800 per kilogram, far below the ₹1,000 costs of manufacturing. Farmers who switched from black pepper to cardamom are now doing the opposite. If the situation remains unchanged, more farmers may switch to other crops in the following two years, according to a farming community source.
Farmers who had leased land are either returning it or requesting a significant reduction in lease rates. According to the source, farmers have reduced crop inputs by more than 50% this season, which will result in a further drop in quality.
Cardamom producers, according to traders, are in trouble, with prices falling from a high of ₹4,000 in 2019. Furthermore, the emergence of substandard cardamom, particularly sick types, is a market dampener.
P.C. Punnoose, CEO of CPMCS Ltd, Thekkady, ascribed the price decline to market excess supply in the absence of demand. Trader stockpiles, higher production, and an expansion in the area under cultivation by small and marginal farmers in non-traditional areas had exacerbated growers’ troubles. With new entrants farming on 2-5 acres, production has increased dramatically. Furthermore, many who had hoarded the crop in anticipation of a price increase have liquidated their stock as a result of the price drop.
Migration is ruled out
However, C. Sadasivasubramaniam, secretary of the Kerala Cardamom Growers’ Union, stated that under the Cardamom Hill Reserve Rules, migration from cardamom to other crops is not permitted. The land’s title deed solely allows for cardamom growing. The current shift on leased lands in non-traditional locations, which may be in very small numbers, will have no substantial influence on productivity.
However, he claims that farmers are unable to maintain farmlands because the cost per hectare ranges between ₹1.25-2.5 lakh. As a result, lands have been idled.
According to S.B. Prabhakar, Chairman of the Kerala Association of Planters, while the quantity has increased, the quality has decreased. Good quality is required for exporting. Arrivals between August and December will determine the future trajectory of prices. Arrivals have increased due to a quick rise in the planted area beginning in 2019, combined with solid husbandry methods. The Covid epidemic has slowed demand in upcountry markets, while pesticide concerns have precluded large-scale exports to Saudi Arabia. Prices can only rise when supply falls.
APK is researching the issue and is in the process of asking the government about providing air freight subsidies for cardamom exports because our present pricing is competitive with Guatemala, he said.