‘Grenada's poor run, bad weather in Indonesia will keep demand steady'

Bad weather conditions in Indonesia, the world's largest grower, destruction of plantations in Grenada and irrepressible growth in demand in South America and Europe have made nutmeg farmers the men about town in India's spices country.

Nutmeg fetches an average Rs.700 a kg in the domestic market and mace commands between Rs.1,400 and Rs.1,500 a kg, said Muthuramalingam, a farmer in Pollachi, where farmers are held back from extending traditional inter-crop of nutmeg trees into full-scale plantations because of paucity of water and electricity. In Kerala's Angamaly-Kalady belt, the bastion of nutmeg cultivation in India, farmers are complaining of a new plant disease but still manage to smile because the average price of nutmeg rules around Rs.700 a kg, growing nearly three times in as many years. P. D. Zachariah, President of Nutmeg Growers' Association, representing about 10,000 farmers who plant nutmeg among other crops in mostly small plots, said that farmers were being richly rewarded by the current market conditions. However, the farmgate price was still unsatisfactory, he said.

According to Spices Board figures, acreage under nutmeg is a little over 16,000 hectares, spread over Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and southern Maharashtra. Annual production is estimated at over 11,000 tonnes. About 10 per cent of the produce is exported as domestic demand continues to be robust.

Exports

The market trend is best reflected in export figures released by the Spices Board. India exported 2,100 tonnes of nutmeg and mace worth nearly Rs.98 crore during 2010-11. The volume soared to 2,900 tonnes between April and December 2011, fetching Rs.187 crore.

Demand

Jojan Malayali of Bafna Enterprises, a spices exporter, said that Indian nutmeg price ruled between Rs.750 and Rs.800 a kg f.o.b. (freight on board). Chairman of World Spice Organisation Philip Kuruvilla sees demand holding up given the current market conditions. He said Indian nutmeg was now being accepted in the European market after a bad spell of high rate of rejection.

More In: Markets | Business