Indian imports of cardamom reflect fall in Guatemalan crop

INDIA’S imports of cardamom declined by 52.6% during April to August this year due to an ongoing fall in output from Guatemala and stringent controls at major customs points in the Asian country.

Only a meagre quantity of 45 tonnes was imported from Guatemala during the period, according to a press release issued by the Spices Board.

Total imports in the 2009/10 period amounted to 95 tonnes compared with 180 tonnes in 2008/09.

The Business Standard newspaper reported that production of cardamom in Guatemala during 2007 was 28,000 tonnes, which declined to 16,500 tonnes in 2009. However, production recovered marginally in 2010 to an estimated 20,000 tonnes.

In 2007, Guatemala exported 27,961 tonnes of cardamom. In 2008, exports were 21,952 tonnes and 23,693 tonnes in 2009.

With the arrival of cardamom to various auction centres, prices declined sharply, to the utter dismay of the small and medium growers.

The current average price is Rs710 ($15.97) a kg, down from Rs 1,350 a kg three months back. Best quality cardamom now fetches Rs770 a kg.

Market sources expect further downward movement in prices as plucking of ripe cardamom is in full swing in Idukki district of Kerala. October to December is the peak harvesting season and as the season picks up, market experts expect prices to touch Rs600 a kg.

Around 100,000, small and medium farmers have no other way but to sell their crop as they face limited facilities for stocking their produce.

Because of its peculiar nature, cardamom cannot be stored for long as the colour changes, which eventually leads to degradation.

During the off-season, the price of best quality cardamom touched Rs1,700 a kg. According to farmers, only large scale growers could take the advantage of the off-season price increase as they have better storage facilities.

After December the market is expected to improve due to poor arrivals and low stock.

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