Lack of benefits dogs cardamom producers

Kathmandu, September 4

Large cardamom (elaichi) producers are not too keen on adopting improved dryer, quality enhancement through grading and modern packaging methods due to lack of value addition in the final produce.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) has revealed that because of low value addition, a majority of producers of large cardamom continue to rely on local technologies and packaging methods.

Normally, producers adopt improved technology and better packaging for quality enhancement of the product so that it could fetch better price. However, in case of large cardamom, which is also called black cardamom, there is nominal price difference in the product processed through improved dryer and local dryer, as per the study.

‘Trade Flow Analysis of Large Cardamom in Eastern Region’, prepared by MoAD has revealed that 90 per cent of farmers are using local dryers. Large cardamom that is processed in improved dryer can fetch only Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 more per maund (40 kg) than the product processed in local dryer.

“Moreover, the practice of grading by colour and size is also negligible,” the study says. Only the tail removal practice has been adopted for value addition, which is a compulsory measure imposed by importers. Farmers and traders have been using ‘jute sacks with plastic linings’ for the packaging of the product.

As per the study, a maund (40 kg) of large cardamom fetches Rs 100,000 and a cardamom producer earns 10 times the cost involved in harvesting the product.

Cardamom is the newly emerged export commodity and a majority of it is being exported to neighbouring India. Gulf countries have also been identified as the potential market for large cardamom, but Nepali producers are yet to tap into the potential in those nations. Large cardamom is basically consumed as spice and used for medicinal purpose.

In fiscal 2014-15, the country exported a total of Rs 3.84 billion worth of large cardamom, as per the data maintained by Nepal Rastra Bank. It was a decline of 10 per cent compared to the previous fiscal year. The commodity has also been incorporated in the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) as a niche market product.

Total global trade of large cardamom in 2014 accounted for $356,494 million, where Nepal’s export share stood at 0.0019 per cent, according to International Trade Centre’s data. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Bangladesh and Singapore are the major importers of large cardamom and they have been providing zero tariff facility for Nepali cardamom.

The study of MoAD has suggested implementing good agricultural practice (GAP) in cardamom. “Use of chemical fertilisers is almost nil, but pesticide has been used in some areas to control diseases,” according to the study, “Disease and pest management should be handled carefully and organic production needs to be promoted.”

Ilam, Panchthar and Taplejung are the pocket districts for large cardamom in the eastern region of the country. Eastern Nepal alone produces 94.59 per cent of the total large cardamom produced in the country, and 93.92 per cent of the total production area also lies in the same region. However, in terms of productivity, there is a remarkable gap between the eastern and western districts. Productivity of large cardamom stands at 0.54 tonne per hectare in Taplejung whereas Bajhang of western Nepal produces one tonne per hectare, which shows the potential of large cardamom in western Nepal as well.