Giji K. Raman
Tribal people of Edamalakkudy find it difficult to market Kaattelam, the cardamom grown by them without using pesticides or fertilizers.
Kaattelam is pesticide-, fertilizer-free
At a time when the cardamom available in the market is said to be heavily sprayed with pesticides, the tribal people of Edamalakkudy are finding it difficult to market Kaattelam, the cardamom grown by them without using pesticides or fertilizers.
The cardamom used to be sold to middlemen from Kothamangalam or Munnar, who gave paltry amounts citing the “poor” quality of the cardamom, though it was completely organic.
Doraisami, an elderly farmer, said the situation had changed now as the Vana Samrakshana Samithi (VSS) under the Forest Department bought cardamom along with other forest produce from the tribal people. However, the problem was that the farmers were given a price less than the market rate, and the payments were delayed.
A.J. Joseph, Munnar range officer, said the samithi bought the produce at a low price as the cardamom collected by the tribal people was graded “poor.” Often, unripened and poorly treated cardamom came to the VSS.
The price of cardamom is decided by its shape, colour, and smell. Except for smell, the Edamalakkudy cardamom falls short in the other two aspects. Though considered pure, it is marketed along with “high” quality cardamom, thereby failing to fetch a price.
Mr. Joseph said the Forest Department was planning to market the Edamalakkudy brand cardamom, and it was trying to get organic certification.
Achuthan, a farmer, said the intervention of the VSS was a good thing as the farmers used to give the cardamom to “businessmen” from Mankulam who gave them money in advance. Never able to repay the money completely, they would be trapped in debt. If the tribal people were trained in collecting cardamom and drying them, it would be a major source of income to them, he said.
“If the Edamalakkudy brand of cardamom is marketed though the VSS outlets, it will help bring about an economic change in the newly created tribal grama panchayat,” Mr. Doraisami said.