A steady rise in the price of cardamom, which has been free from fluctuations at the auction centres for the past two years, has prompted some farmers to apply steroids and allopathic medicines to the plants to increase production.

A team of scientists from the Spices Board of India found a few such instances in a field study in some areas of Vandanmedu and Kumily after collecting evidence of usage of harmful substances.

Some farmers had reportedly connived with pharmaceutical outlets to buy steroids and medicines in large quantities. The collusion came to light when some medicines were found to be in continuous short supply for patients who come with doctors' prescriptions. The farmers allegedly use the medicines Disprin and Wysolone, Vitamin B complex and steroids, along with other combinations.

The Drug Controller had visited the areas and recommended stringent action against retail pharmacies who connived with the farmers. The Spices Board team submitted a report recommending action against those who use such substances in plants.

There has also been allegations that banned pesticides such as endosulfan produced by fake firms are being applied to the plants, which may ultimately have a negative impact in domestic and international markets.

M. Murugan, Assistant Professor, Agroclimatology, Pampadumpara Cardamom Research Station, said increased use of pesticides and harmful substances such as steroids would have a negative impact in the long run as pests would become pesticide-resistant and the plants would decay. Cardamom was a highly sensitive plant.

Nebu John Pottamkulam, a planter at Vandenmedu, said that only small-scale farmers were resorting to such applications and he had known about it only when the media reported it. “The production of cardamom largely depends on the healthy condition of the plants. How can one resort to such temporary measures to increase production,” he asked.