High returns lure many into cardamom farmingHigh prices and strong export demand has attracted farmers back to large cardamom production in Ilam, but a shortage of saplings has hit their expansion plans.
High prices and strong export demand has attracted farmers back to large cardamom production in Ilam, but a shortage of saplings has hit their expansion plans.
The large cardamom acreage has increased significantly in the eastern hill district of Ilam with prices of the spice soaring to as high as Rs2,500 per kg this year. Farmers have started to utilize all the slopes, marginalized and degraded land to grow their crops.
According to the District Agriculture Office, the supply of saplings falls short of demand. Farmers who have applied for 1,000 saplings are getting 100 plants.
The government has been distributing large cardamom saplings free of cost. More than 20 large cardamom species are grown in Nepal. This year, the government has distributed Ramshai, Golshai and Salakpure spices in Ilam.
Large cardamom prices had plunged to Rs1,000 per kg in 2011 on low overseas demand. Since then, prices have been rising gradually, reaching Rs1,500 per kg in 2013 and Rs2,500 per kg in 2015.
The office said that farmers had to face pest infection in the plant in the past. However, as the new sapling suffer less pest infection, demand has grown significantly.
“I had applied for 2,000 saplings, but had to return with only 200 plants,” said Laxmi Poudel, a farmer of Fakfok. Like Poudel, many farmers had to be disappointed. Uddav Poudel, assistant technician of the District Agriculture Office, said they did not have have any programmes to fulfil the requirement of growers. “We have to distribute saplings to all the farmers who have applied for them. So we have to balance distribution.”
The office plans to distribute 168,000 saplings this fiscal year in Ilam, but demand has soared to 1.7 million saplings.
The full subsidy programme run by the National Spice Crops Development Programme under the Ministry of Agricultural Development has targeted to distribute 550,000 saplings in 18 districts this year. The overall demand is more than 15 million.
Large cardamom is one of the major contributors to Nepal’s foreign exchange earnings. India is a major market for the large cardamom produced in the country. From India, the spice is re-exported to Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Gulf countries and other overseas destinations.
Farmers have also been encouraged by the government’s efforts to obtain a collective trademark for large cardamom. In 2013-14, the government registered a collective trademark for large cardamom, and the spice is being promoted as Everest Large Cardamom.
Large cardamom was introduced into Ilam from Sikkim in 1865. It is being commercially cultivated in 38 districts mainly in Ilam, Panchthar, Taplejung, Dhankuta, Terhathum, Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur districts and nearly 67,000 families are directly and indirectly involved in it.