Print Edition - 2014-08-08 | MONEY
Cardamom growers all smiles as prices hit record highs
-, , Ilam / Biratnagar
Aug 7, 2014-
Happy days are here again for large cardamom growers with prices reaching new highs due to swelling overseas demand and falling production. After a decade in the doldrums, the large cardamom business has stirred to life with prices hitting a record Rs 2,250 per kg and climbing.
The spice is one of the high value cash crops and export commodities and is grown only in Sikkim and Darjeeling in India, Bhutan and Nepal. Farmers said that prices were expected to soar further after the harvest begins. Cardamom prices normally rise during the main harvesting season (July-September) and the slack season (December-May).
The harvest season starts in July and continues until September. During this period, transactions reach a peak, creating immense competition among buyers which pushes up prices.
Large cardamom prices had plunged to Rs 1,000 per kg in 2011 on low overseas demand. Since then, prices have been rising gradually, reaching Rs 1,500 per kg last year.
“As output has dropped during this season due to disease, prices have risen significantly,” said Nirmal Bhattarai, a local cardamom trader. “The existing demand for this valuable spice shows that prices are likely to soar further.”
Large cardamom is one of the major contributors to Nepal’s foreign exchange earning. India is a major market for large cardamom produced in Nepal. From India, the spice is re-exported to Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Gulf countries and other overseas destinations.
The major disease threat to large cardamom is Chirke and Furkey viral diseases. That did not deter farmers from growing large cardamom as prices have been on an upswing from the last two years. Growers have also been looking for disease-resistant varieties.
Meanwhile, demand for large cardamom saplings is also on the rise. Uddav Poudel, an official of the Agriculture Development Office in Ilam, said the Large Cardamom Development Centre in Fikkal, Ilam, had received orders for 2 million saplings. However, the centre has not been able to fulfil demand.
Farmers have also been encouraged by the government’s efforts to obtain a collective trademark for large cardamom. In the last fiscal year, the government registered a collective trademark for cardamom which will be promoted as Everest Big Cardamom.
After the trademark is registered, Nepali products can be exported directly to potential overseas markets and they will be able to get better prices, said Ishwori Prasad Ghimire, executive director of the Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC). “However, Nepal needs to ensure better quality with proper processing and packaging to make the product marketable in the global market.” Anil Dhungana, chairman of the Large Cardamom Entrepreneurs Association, said that Nepali producers would be able to explore markets in other countries with the trademark. “It will help farmers to increase their income,” he said, adding that Nepali products used to be marketed under Indian brands earlier, and farmers did not get reasonable prices.
According to the TEPC, Nepal exported 4,669 tonnes of large cardamom valued at Rs 4.04 billion in the first 11 months of the last fiscal year. Exports amounted to Rs 3.44 billion during the same period in the previous year.
Large cardamom was introduced into Ilam from Sikkim in 1865. Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Terhathum, Bhojpur and Dhankuta districts are the major large cardamom producing areas in Nepal. Cultivation of the spice has now spread to more than 38 districts.
Published: 08-08-2014 09:22