Heavy rains in the high ranges of Kerala have raised fears of yield loss in cardamom from fungal diseases. State agriculture department has warned of severe fungal disease and decay of cardamom beans at the tender period. India is the second-largest producer of cardamom in the world, producing 10,000-12,000 tonne annually.
The district has been receiving continuous rain in the last two months and with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting more rain in the coming days, the possibility of fungus damaging the crop is causing concern, KK Devassia of Cardamom Growers Association said. According to IMD data, Idukki has received 59% excess rain from June 1 to July 24. “Farmers are unable to use pesticides as it needs sun for at least two days to counter the fungal attack. The disease is widespread and the extent of damage can only be ascertained later,” he added.
Cardamom plants are very sensitive to rains with productivity directly related to the volume of rain and number of raining days. Cardamom needs low temperature, high humidity and incessant drizzle. Heavy rain could damage the crop, while intermittent rain that keep the atmosphere humid augur well. Kerala is the biggest contributor of cardamom to the country with a share of around 70% in total production. In this, Idukki accounts for the lion’s share.
The state-run spices board estimates production of cardamom in the last fiscal at 12,420 tonne. The production during 2011-12 is estimated to be as high as 15,000 tonne. Cardamom exports during the last fiscal are seen lower by 52 % in volume and 49% in value at 2,250 tonne. During FY 12, exports stood at 4,650 tonne valued at Rs 363.22 crore.
The average price stood at Rs 578.61 a kg on Friday at the auctions in Idukki where 53 tonne was traded. Cardamom prices had reached a record high of Rs 1950-2000 per kg during June 2010 due to shortage of the commodity. A major reason for the record price during 2009-10 was lower production in competing Guatemala. Angel Commodities reports that cardamom futures are expected to trade weak due to higher production prospects.