Cardamom trading falls as price plunges 50pc

- CHANDRA KARKI/VIDYA RAI, TEHRATHUM/BHOJPUR

Nov 12, 2016-Cardamom trading has virtually come to a halt in the eastern parts of Nepal following a 50 percent drop in the spice’s price.

In the markets of eastern hilly districts such as Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung, large cardamom is currently being traded at Rs1,375 per kg, as against around Rs2,750 per kg a year ago, thanks to supply glut, drop in international demand and barriers in entry of the spice into Pakistan.

Eastern districts recorded a bumper cardamom harvest this year, which raised the supply of the spice. However, demand for large cardamom has lately fallen in the international market, hitting the price in the domestic market as well, Rajendra Shah, a cardamom trader from Dharan said.

Another reason for the drop in cardamom price is hike in production in India. “In previous years, cardamom yields had fallen after pests affected farms in Kurseong and Darjeeling, where the spice is largely grown,” said Kapil Dev Das, officer of District Agricultural Office of Bhojpur. 

“Lately, production has gone up and India is becoming self-sufficient in cardamom. This has also affected the price in Nepal.”

Also, Nepali cardamom has not entered Pakistan—one of the biggest markets for the spice—via India because of sour relationship between the two countries following the spat at the border several weeks ago, added Das.

Nearly 90 percent of the large cardamom grown in Nepal is exported to India. From India, the spice is re-exported to Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Gulf countries and other overseas destinations.

With the drop in price of cardamom, trading of the spice has virtually come to a halt. A year ago, markets in Basantapur, Lasune, Jiri-Khimti, Shukrabare and Morahang used to see cardamom trade worth Rs700 million. But these markets bear a desolate look these days.

“Cardamom farmers only inquire about the price these days. They don’t come with the intention of selling the spice,” said Bir Bahadur Subba, a cardamom trader from Lali Gurans municipality, adding, “A lot of them are waiting for the price to go up.”

If this trend continues, farmers are likely to divert away from cardamom farming. 

Cardamom is produced mainly in the eastern hills in Nepal. Outside Nepal, the spice is grown only in Sikkim and Darjeeling in India and Bhutan. Large cardamom was introduced into Ilam from Sikkim in 1865.

Nepal is the largest producer of large cardamom, accounting for 68 percent of the international market. It is followed by India and Bhutan. 

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. Taplejung is the top producer with an annual output of 2,400 tonnes worth Rs6 billion.

Large cardamom is one of the major contributors to Nepal’s foreign exchange earnings. According to government statistics, Nepal exported large cardamom valued at Rs4.61 billion in the last fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year 2014-15, shipments totalled Rs3.83 billion.

Published: 12-11-2016 09:53

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