Kochi: After delayed harvests and declining production, cardamom farmers are set to enjoy some respite, with an extended season to sell their crop and the 2008 Budget allocating Rs10.68 crore for replantation.
The cardamom season usually stops around end-February or early March but, with prices averaging at Rs475 per kg, most farmers have held on to stocks in anticipation of better rates and continue to sell at auctions, said T.T. Jose, managing director of Mas Enterprises Ltd, an auction centre in Idukki district in southern Kerala.
“Coupled with this, a few showers over the past two months have seen some of the plants flower, giving hope of some more crop in the days to come,” he said.
According to Jose, the 30% fall in production this fiscal was due mainly to a dry spell in early 2007, followed by a downpour during the monsoons, which destroyed much of the crop.
Reviving crop: A cardamom plant. The Spices Board, the government trade promotion body, pegs the maximum fall in production in 2007-08 at 15%, to 9,700 tonnes from 11,235 tonnes previously.
The Spices Board, the government trade promotion body, pegs the maximum fall in production in fiscal 2007-08 at 15%, to 9,700 tonnes from 11,235 tonnes previously.
Reflecting this steep decline, arrivals at cardamom auction centres between July 2007 and mid-February 2008 were 3,555 tonnes at an average Rs475 a kg, lower than the 5,360 tonnes at Rs298.60 a kg in the previous year.
Sajan K. Kalarickal, vice-chairman of the Spices Board and a cardamom farmer, said the main reason for lower arrivals at the centres was the decline in crop production, which increased cardamom prices to about Rs600 a kg at the auctions till mid-February.
If the recent showers helped sow some hope, the Rs10.68 crore allocation in the 2008 Budget gives a big boost to the farmers, especially as most of the cardamom crop was destroyed by heavy rains during the monsoons.
The fund will be in addition to an earlier Rs600 crore programme for replantation and rejuvenation of cardamom.
The scheme will, over five years, cover nearly 45,000ha in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the three cardamom-growing states in the country, and, with a subsidy component of Rs122 crore, is expected to generate an income of around Rs990 crore over five years.
As per the proposal, the unit cost for replantation in the hilly terrains of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is estimated at Rs1.19 lakh per hectare and Rs90,663 per hectare in Karnataka. The subsidy component is 33% for those owning land up to 4ha and 25% for those with more than that.
For rejuvenation, where gardens replanted earlier will be tended and new seedlings planted, the unit cost is estimated at around Rs42,500 per hectare, and the subsidy element will be 33%.
While farmers who have undertaken replantation in the fiscal year ending 31 March will be given subsidy, for which Rs3 crore has been set aside, the recent budgetary announcement of Rs10.68 crore will be used in the coming fiscal.
The focus will be on readying sufficient material by the end of the coming year so replanting can be undertaken in a big way over the next three years, said V.J. Kurian, chairman of the Spices Board.
The board’s Indian Cardamom Research Institute will be involved in developing high-yielding varieties and ensuring sufficient planting material for the programme.