Panelists at a webinar on National Sustainable Spice Programme (NSSP) on Cardamom highlighted the need for making 25 per cent of spices grown in India sustainable by 2025.

Towards achieving this objective, they urged the active involvement of all the stakeholders in the NSSP initiative. The webinar was conducted as part of the launch of NSSP for cardamom for the benefit of farmers and other stakeholders of the cardamom sector.

D Sathiyan, Secretary, Spices Board, pointed out the challenges faced in the cardamom sector and the need for addressing the issues of quality and food safety across the entire spices supply chain, starting from the cultivation stage. The emphasis on food safety, quality and sustainability is the need of the hour to retain the country’s dominant position in the traditional export markets, while increasing the market base to cover new markets for Indian spices, he said.

Spices Board, in collaboration

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Despite the ensuing festival season, subdued buying of cardamom from upcountry markets has pushed the trading community in a precarious situation.

“What is happening now is only minimal trade with some specific orders which is not enough to tide over the crisis triggered by the pandemic,” sources in the sector told BusinessLine. The high labour cost and shortage of migrant labour from Theni due to Covid-19 restrictions has forced growers in Idukki to depend on labour that’s available in Kerala, which has increased costs by around 30 per cent, the sources said.

“September and October are considered a good time for a demand boost for cardamom from North Indian consuming markets. But the spread of Covid-19 has hit consumption due to restrictions on weddings, events, etc. Traders are in a dilemma on the dwindling demand, coupled with a stagnant export market due to the pesticide issue in Saudi Arabia,”

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Cardamom-growing regions of Idukki are facing an acute shortage of labour, which is hindering smooth harvest of the crop that started in July.

According to the growers’ community, availability of labour has tumbled to almost 40 per cent of the requirement in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions on movement of migrant labour from the neighbouring district of Theni in Tamil Nadu. The declaration of containment zones in many areas of Tamil Nadu has forced the district administration in Idukki to restrict the movement of Tamil workers, who regularly come for farm work in cardamom plantations of Vandanmedu.

“The labour shortage is acute in many plantations in Idukki and is affecting the harvest. We are managing with available labour, but they are not competent enough to complete the harvest in a time-bound manner. The emerging situation may lead to the destruction of capsules that may not be fruitful for anyone,” a

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