Cardamom plants in Kodagu
MADIKERI, JUNE 28. Cardamom growers with large plantations were once considered the richest in Kodagu. That changed with the advent of coffee. During the coffee boom in the early Nineties, coffee replaced cardamom in many plantations that had become unviable. The spice is now grown in 11,894 hectares of land in Kodagu.
This includes "jama malai" forest land given to some families during the time of the former rulers of Kodagu. But the better price of coffee forced many families to abandon "jama malais" in the last decade or so.
The coffee boom affected production of cardamom to some extent. However, the total area of land converted to coffee plantations is not known, P.M. Nazimuddin, Assistant Director of the Spices Board here, told The Hindu .
Cardamom imported from Guatemala has also affected demand for the domestic variety. The imported product available at a cheaper price is mixed with the Indian variety and sold for a pittance. Moreover, the "mosaic" disease, called Katte in local parlance, afflicted the plants, and the growers had no choice but to destroy the plants to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Indian Institute of Spices Research at Appangala near here developed a variety resistant to Katte, but it was not enough to help wipe out the disease. The price of Rs. 275 to Rs. 300 for a kilogram of cardamom is not lucrative. Production has gone up tremendously in Kerala, which also led to the slump in prices. Last year, 749 tonnes of cardamom was produced in Kodagu, Homey Cherian, Field Officer of the Board, said.
This was 15 per cent lower than the average yield. Following the good rainfall, a 25 per cent increase over last year's yield could be expected this year.
The Board, which is involved in cardamom production and related activities, also provides pepper and vanilla plants to the growers. "We will supply 70,000 cardamom seedlings, and 75,000 pepper and 1.5 lakh vanilla saplings this year," Mr. Nazimuddin said.
He said the board gave subsidies of up to Rs. 9,000 a hectare for taking up cultivation and replanting of cardamom plants, seeds, setting up irrigation ponds and drying yards, buying irrigation equipment and so on to growers having up to four hectares of land.
"The growers now feel that they should grow at least three types of crops to sustain themselves in the absence of remunerative prices for coffee," Dr. Cherian said.