Cardamom prices climb to ‘extreme’ levels

GUATEMALAN cardamom prices have shown renewed strength in recent weeks as ongoing demand puts the squeeze on already tight supplies.

In the week ending January 15, European traders quoted Guatemalan cardamom seeds as rallying to $30,000 a tonne cif main European ports from $25,000 a tonne cif a week earlier and mixed yellow qualities (MYQs) as gaining to $18,500 a tonne cif from $18,000 a tonne earlier.

Andrew Barker, managing director of PBA brokerage told “There is a huge demand for cardamoms at the moment internationally and supply is less from Guatemala and India. It is pushing prices continuously upwards.” Trade estimates have suggested that Guatemala’s latest crop is in the range of 14,000 to 16,000 tonnes, but this remains to be clarified.

Mr Barker explained that buying had tailed off in the past week. “Most people I know are just shell shocked – they don’t know what to do and are just going hand to mouth,” he said.

One Rotterdam trader commented that in his view buying activity was very slowly starting to pick up again as dealers looked to replenish stocks. “Prices have jumped to extreme levels but once every 10 years that happens,” he added.

The trader pointed out that owing to the recession, the volumes being purchased are much lower than in the past. “In the past people were buying maybe five- or 10-tonne lots and now they are buying a few hundred kilos or one or two tonnes, so it is all coming through in bits and pieces,” he said.

One UK spice trader remarked that he had had to move in to purchase some cardamom from the spot market to find that he had to pay a “phenomenal price” of $20 a kg for MYQ material. The trader added that he feels there are no stocks of bold green available in Europe currently and the overall impression is that the market is certainly not flooded with material.

Moreover, the trader observed that lack of finance has meant that companies have had to limit their inventories, a situation which compounds any existing tightness in availability. “Where it (the price) is going to go, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen higher prices for cardamom than they are now,” he remarked.

The trader added that at this stage he feels that farmers and/or exporters in Guatemala might be holding on to produce for as long as possible to fuel scarcity fears and lend support to prices.

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