Uncertainty looms over cardamom auction in Idukki

Vendors approach the Kerala High Court after the Spices Board imposed restriction on cardamom re-pooling. Farmers say dealers often try to manipulate the auction process by re-pooling their purchased cardamom and suggest holding a separate auction for such re-pooled cardamom.

Published - June 30, 2024 08:12 pm IST - IDUKKI

Dried cardamom kept at an auction company in Kumily, Idukki.

Dried cardamom kept at an auction company in Kumily, Idukki. | Photo Credit: JOMON PAMPAVALLEY

Uncertainty prevails over cardamom auction in Idukki after a group of vendors approached the Kerala High Court after the Spices Board imposed restriction on cardamom re-pooling. In early June, Spices Board Director (Marketing) issued a circular limiting the cardamom pooled by licenced dealers in any auction to 25% of the total quantity. This rule was to be enforced by licenced auction companies. Previously, the dealers could pool up to 25 tonnes of cardamom per auction, with two auctions held daily. Officials noted that these restrictions were imposed following a court directive.

Justin Thomas, secretary of the Kerala Cardamom Dealers Chamber, expressed concerns over the impact of the new restrictions, claiming it adversely affected vendors and the auction process. “We approached the court for clarity on the re-pooling quantity allowed for licensed dealers. The new order, which limits re-pooling at 25% of the auction’s total quantity, hinders licensed dealers from participating effectively,” he stated. He explained that small-scale farmers sell their produce to licensed dealers, who then pool it for auction. With the new restrictions, many farmers lack the quantity to auction independently, while vendors have ample stock but limited opportunities to auction it.

The court has issued notices to the Cardamom Growers Association and postponed the case for two weeks.

‘Bid to monopolise auction’

Shine Varghese, general secretary of the Vandanmedu Cardamom Growers Association, accused the dealers chamber of attempting to monopolise the auction process. “The Spices Board conducts auctions for growers, but dealers often try to manipulate the process by re-pooling their purchased cardamom. The Board must take immediate steps to prevent such illegal interventions,” he said.

According to Spices Board sources, the re-pooling restrictions were implemented based on the court’s directive. “The ongoing conflict between traders and growers is likely to negatively impact the cardamom sector’s prices and sales,” said a source.

Karshaka Congress Idukki district president Antony Kuzhikkattu said it was a long-term demand to do away with cardamom re-pooling in auctions. “Re-pooling means the vendors purchase cardamom from farmers at the auction, grade it based on its colour, shape, size and oil content, and then export the first grade cardamom and put up the second grade or third grade back at the auction, resulting in a dip in the cardamom price. The Spices Board should take steps to arrange a special auction facility for cardamom farmers> The board should conduct a separate auction for sale of dealers re-pooled cardamom,” said Mr. Kuzhikkattu.

“At present, the vendors gamble with the farmer’s produce, who have no role to play in determining the cardamom price,” said Mr. Kuzhikkatu.

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