Shortage fears maintain strength in Guatemalan cardamom

GUATEMALAN cardamom prices have shown renewed strength of late due to ongoing reports that output will be much smaller this year, which have cancelled out other claims that the crop will be ahead of that of 2009/10.

Andrew Barker, managing director of PBA Brokerage told  that two conflicting reports have emerged from exporters in Guatemala. One contingent, which has undertaken crop surveys, is convinced that the crop should be more than 24,000 tonnes. As a result, they believe prices will fall at some point in the first quarter of 2011.

On the other side, there is a group of exporters that firmly believe the crop will be around 17,000 to 18,000 tonnes, which would match the range estimated for the 2009/10 crop.

“It is quite unusual within one country to get such divided opinion amongst people who are sitting in air conditioned offices probably not more than a couple of miles from each other, but controlling huge sums of money,” Mr Barker remarked.

One Rotterdam trader said he was confident that the lower end estimates were an accurate reflection of the situation, particularly in view of rain damage to cardamom plants in recent months. He viewed the suggestions of 24,000 tonnes as completely unrealistic, pointing out that new plantings done in 2008 and 2009 would not have entered into production yet as it takes three years for new plants to bear fruit.

“The world will have to deal with a scarcity of cardamoms in the market,” he warned.

Mr Barker noted that the strongest direction of opinion was on the bullish side, as reflected by the continued ascent of prices. “Another thing that has caused prices to rise quite dramatically in the last six weeks is the fact that an old time exporter who has not been very active suddenly bought 2,000 tonnes,” he added.

Guatemalan medium whole greens were being offered at $26,000 a tonne c&f and large whole greens at $27,000 a tonne c&f. Mr Barker noted that these quotes remained below the highs of $31,000 to $32,000 a tonne reached in late 2009/early 2010.

Seeds were between $28,000 and $32,000 a tonne c&f and mixed yellow qualities of 360 grammes a litre were said to be at $25,500 a tonne.

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