Dry weather ruins Indian cardamom hopes

THE continuing drought in the cardamom producing centres of Idukki in Kerala and Bodinayakannur in Tamil Nadu has shattered farmers’ hopes of reaping a rich harvest.

Although there were summer showers in the high ranges, most of the cardamom growing areas have been devoid of rains for the past three to four months.

“The drought has affected plants in almost 50% of the major producing areas, ” said P Punnoose, general manager of the Cardamom Processing & Marketing Company (CPMC). “It is virtually certain that the next crop season will be delayed byup to two months, and the harvest will take place only in August.” K Michel, president of the Cardamom Growers’ Association, said that production was likely to be badly affected as daytime temperatures have increased by four to five degrees over normal levels of around 26 degrees Celsius.

“The high temperatures have weakened the cardamom plants, ” he said. “We have estimated that there will be a 30% drop in production in the 2009/10 crop season, compared to output of 11,000 tonnes in 2008/09.” Not surprisingly, cardamom prices continued their upward spiral on thin supplies and good demand atCPMC auctions. The individual average price on April 8 stood at Rs582.77 ($11.60) a kg, after moving up from Rs522.57 a kg at the start of the month. While the average price for last week was Rs 536.76 per kg, a maximum price level of Rs631 a kg was touched.

There was good buying support from north Indian dealers as availability was limited. But exporters have kept away from the market, probably due to the higher prices.

Traders alleged that the increase in prices was due to manipulations by market players and prices were likely to move further upward as there would be no auctions from Friday to Sunday due to the Easter holidays.

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