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Even the “Queen of Spices” is Having a Tough Time

Aravind Rajan
Aravind Rajan
cardamom

From erratic monsoons to disrupted supply chains, there is always something to worry as far as cardamom cultivation is concerned. But the year 2020 is bringing added woes to the abode of mountain gods rich with green and aromatic cardamom plantations.

Well-known for its quality around the globe, the Indian variety of the crop is mainly cultivated in the southern regions of the Western Ghats, with Idukki in the state of Kerala accounting for the majority of production. The authorities report a 30% to 35% reduction in the overall production of the spice over the past few years. The major factor for this reduction is the lack of proper and adequate precipitation, they say. Though restricted to some areas of the Western Ghats, a good proportion of people directly or indirectly depend on the crop for a living.

It’s not long since the market price for Elaichi hiked to a record high of more than ₹6000 per kilogram; the farmers, however, are not in the same state of satisfaction at the moment. The same product is now priced at around ₹1500 per kilogram. The fluctuating prices, however, is nothing new for the cardamom producers. What troubles them most is another set of issues that came up with the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19.

The restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus brought huge loss for the planters. The majority of the workers, employed on daily wages, come from the border areas of Tamil Nadu. With the states closing their borders, the supply of human labour reduced at an alarming rate. As a result, the local workforce enjoyed great demand, but not until mid-July; as the disease started spreading rapidly among people, even the local workforce is unavailable. Many plantations across the region are ready for harvest, but with no workforce, the producers see no quick solution for their problems.

cardamom

With COVID-19 bringing in severe restrictions, the supply chain, and most importantly, the auction of the processed cardamom has come to a standstill. Needless to say, the export of the product is heavily interrupted. With the limited or no workforce and suspended auctions, the cardamon planters stand clueless about the upcoming days.

Like the queen, the crop needs adequate care round the year. The disrupted care and inputs will harshly affect the crops, leading to great woes in the upcoming times. It will not be a surprise to see an increase in the price of the spice yet again, say from ₹1500 to ₹5000, the production inevitably will be affected considering the present circumstances. But what worries them more is the condition of the crops which remain unattended for some time now.

What promised to be a healthy year for the “queen of spices” is now turning to a nightmare. Resorting to limited solutions and inputs, the farmers and dependent people hope the tough situation would come to a cessation soon.

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