KOCHI: The no-win situation in which the state’s cardamom farmers currently find themselves can well qualify as an instance of the slip between ‘the cup and the lip’. Just as cardamom prices are on the rise, with the upward trend continuing through till April, the farmers are reduced to mere onlookers as they do not have any stock of the commodity.Jose Joseph, a cardamom farmer in Nedumkandam in Idukki, who has been studying cardamom prices for the last several years, said this may be the first time in the last 15 years prices have gone up after February.
According to the Spices Board, the average price of cardamom rules at `2,154 per kg, whereas the price hovered in the ` 870-930 range per kg during the year-ago period. The price had zoomed to `1,200/1,300 per kg in October last. Thankachan Jose, Idukki District Small and Marginal Cardamom Growers’ Association president, said after the deluge in mid-August, cardamom farmers sold off their stocks when the prices crossed `1,100-1,200/kg mark last year.
“Except for some big farmers, who cultivate the crop on 50-100 plus acre and some big traders in Tamil Nadu, this price rise has not helped the small farmers,” said Thankachan, who cultivates cardamom on 5 acre of leased land in Vandanmedu.Mohammed Rahmathula, HOD, Department of Statistics, MES College Nedumkandam, shared Thankachan’s view. “May be some farmers have 20-50 kg of stock with them. That’s it,” he said.
As per his assessment, the district’s entire cardamom growing region, including Vandanmedu and Nedumkandam, may have unsold stock of cardamom of not more than 25,000-30,000 kg. Says Thankachan, “The price we see in the auction is also due to the repooling system, where the auctioned commodity is again brought back for auction. So, effectively we are not seeing more spice coming into the market.”
Rahmathula reckoned the production of cardamom is unlikely to improve next year due to the severe drought in the hill district. “Unless the region gets some rain immediately, we may see the entire cardamom cultivation withering in the blazing heat,” he said. Jose Joseph said the small and marginal farmers, who may have a maximum of 50-75 kg of cardamom stock, are likely to sell the commodity in parts if the price remains steady at these levels. “Most farmers are in a confused state - whether to offload their existing small stock, or wait to see if the price goes up further,” he said.