Cardamom cultivators in Kerala are dealing with debt, price drop of their produce and labour shortage all at once, thanks to the current crisis.
By Kurian Joe
Cultivators of cardamom are facing a huge loss as the auctions have been paused due to the lockdown triggered by the coronavirus. The estates were reopened after permission from the state government.
The state government has also specified norms regarding the re-opening of these estates. It has only allowed basic work like irrigation and spraying of pesticides for the plants. Only one employee will be allowed to work in one acre of land. Bringing in employees from other states is also prohibited.
“The price per kilo of cardamom last year was upwards of Rs 4,000. As cultivators have abundant stock from the last season, the prices have dropped now. Currently, you can buy a kilo of cardamom at less than Rs 2,000,” said Mr. George Joseph, an estate owner in Thekkady.
Fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides are essential for the proper upkeep and growth of cardamom plants. Estate owners usually buy these essentials from fertilizer shops on debit and repay after the sale of their harvest.
“Payments are still due. And with the borders closed and lack of proper funds, the next batch of fertilizers cannot be purchased,” said Mr. Sabu Jacob, owner of Southern Crops, a fertilizer shop.
Without the proper supply of agricultural inputs, the harvesting of these crops will be affected and will result in the change of the growth cycle.
“The majority of employees come from states like Tamil Nadu. The next harvest season starts in June. Without proper inputs and labour the whole harvest will go into a loss,” George added.
The Spice Board of India had announced the stopping of auction in the two main centers at Puttady and Bodinayakanur.
Mr.Raghavan Thaliat, Managing Director at Kerala Cardamom Processing and Marketing Corporation said, “Auctioned cardamom is transported to the main hub in Bodi, Tamil Nadu .From there it is distributed to the respective buyers for exporting. Since the borders have closed auctions have stopped. We can only assess the situation in the coming months. Prices will definitely go down to Rs 1000-1200 per kg.”
“Cardamom requires proper irrigation for its growth, currently in Kerala there is a decent management of irrigation by laborers and social distancing is being followed. In the last two years, floods have done extensive damage to the crops. Prices will go up next year as low production can be expected,” said Mohammed Faisal, a researcher at The Indian Institute of Spices Research.