Cardamom strike called off in Indian state

CARDAMOM plantations in Kerala, India have returned to business after an indefinite strike by workers was called off.

The strike, which lasted 12 days, hit plantations at a time when the cardamom plants needed most attention; and was withdrawn after a wage settlement on the lines of that accepted by tea workers of the state.

A minimum wage of Rs126.90 ($2.90) per day was agreed.

Although plantation owners were not happy by the compromise wage proposed by the state government, the prolonged crisis at cardamom plantations forced them to agree.

The standstill in production is estimated to have caused a 20% loss in production, and an immediate financial setback of Rs80m.

Traders said that although cardamom currently fetched a price of Rs600 per kg, it is hit by a wide set of price and product vagaries, unlike tea and rubber which are relatively more stable.

At major auction centres of Vandanmeedu and Bodhimeedu, the strike did not seriously disrupt the market, as the centres had sufficient pre-dried stocks to last a fortnight.

The gloomy news on the cardamom crop front in South India was somewhat mitigated by information that the output of large cardamom in the Northeastern states was set to increase with good and timely rains in June and July, which aided in good crop-setting.

The output of large cardamom, which is cultivated in the subHimalayan region, which dropped to under 2,500 tonnes after the severe drought of 2003/04, is estimated to be more than 3,000 tonnes for the 2008/09 season.

Sources at the Spices Board said that the area under cultivation in Sikkim dwindled over the past five years to 1,900 hectares from 2,500 hectares, but that another 700 hectares would be planted with the spice this season as export demand for the commodity is on the rise.

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