Cardamom farmers in Ramechhap village of Nepal are being compelled to sell the spice at a lower price following a significant drop in international price of the commodity. Farmers had stored ready-to-sell cardamom for months hoping for correction in market prices. As possibilities of an upward revision in international price of the spice started looking slim, they have started selling the product at lower prices.
Last year, farmers had fetched up to Rs2,200 for every kg of cardamom they sold. This year, farmers are finding it difficult to sell the spice even at Rs1,050 to Rs1,100 per kg. Farmers, who had refrained from selling cardamom anticipating upward movement in prices, are now ready to compromise.
Some of the farmers in the region had declined to plant paddy and instead grown cardamom. In spite of this craze, the region has witnessed a drop in cardamom production due to several problems, including lack of proper irrigation facility, according to a local Surya Basnet.
“As a result, both production and price of cardamom have dropped. It has been a bad year for us,” Basnet said.
As prices of the spice did not go up in the district, farmers started reaching out to markets in Kathmandu and Birtamod. However, this initiative too did not yield positive result.
“Only a handful of entrepreneurs in Kathmandu are interested in buying cardamom,” said Basnet, adding, “Until last year, traders used to visit villages to purchase cardamom. This year, nobody seems to be interested in this product.”
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 in Ilam from Sikkim in 1865.
Nepal is the largest producer of large cardamom, accounting for 68 percent of the global production, followed by India and Bhutan.
Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Terhathum, Bhojpur and Dhankuta districts are the major large cardamom producing districts in Nepal. Cultivation of the spice has now spread to more than 38 districts. Taplejung is the top producer of the spice with an annual output of 2,400 tonnes worth Rs6 billion.
Large cardamom makes a sizeable contribution to Nepal’s foreign exchange earnings. According to government statistics, Nepal exported large cardamom worth Rs4.61 billion in the last fiscal year. In the fiscal year 2014-15, shipments totalled Rs3.83 billion.