Bhutan Cardamom inferior due to poor drying practices

A recent study by the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives (DAMC) says the quality of cardamom from Bhutan is inferior to those produced in India and Nepal because of poor drying practices.

The study stated that poor drying practices result in further quality deterioration during storage and transportation, inferior colour and other sensory characteristics.

The current farm gate price of cardamom ranges from Nu 500 to Nu 800 a kilogramme (kg) against Nu 700 to Nu 1,400 a kg last year.

However, when compared to the prevailing auction prices of Indian cardamom at West Bengal and Sikkim, from September 4 to 11, Bhutanese cardamom still fetched higher prices. Indian auction prices ranged between Rs 488 – 525 a kg for Chhotadana and Rs 600 – 675 for Badadana.

The study found that the cost of production of cardamom in Bhutan is only Nu 292.39 a kg. When compared to the minimum farm gate price this year, farmers still gained a minimum of Nu 208 a kg, which is a mark-up of 71 percent of the cost of production.

The study indicates that while the price may have decreased slightly in 2017, based on the growers’ feedback, there are no serious issues considering the current prices, the cost of production and the market price for Indian cardamom.

“It can be inferred that because the export price for cardamom surged in 2014 (Nu 1,057 a kg) and remained high in 2015 (Nu 1,110 a kg), growers must have had high expectations,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, from around 1,000 MT (metric tonne) in 2010 production increased to more than 2,500 MT in 2016. Production has been increasing consistently over the years pushed by higher export demand and surge in price.

Similarly, export volume and value had increased in tandem with rise in production. Bangladesh has been the bigger market from 2010 to 2015, but in 2016, exports to India were higher.

According to the recent study, post-harvest handling and processing techniques, particularly the drying method, continued to remain very rudimentary. The government is making technology interventions predominantly to improve drying technology.

More than 60 improved cardamom dryers, fueled by wood, have been established on cost – sharing basis with beneficiaries in Dagana, Tsirang, Samtse, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Chukha and Pemagatshel. Each of these dryers costs Nu 30,000. Likewise, electricity powered dryers are also being tested and promoted to improve drying efficiency and product quality.

Diseased plantation and availability of clean planting material was a challenge for growers in the past but this has been addressed through the establishment of a nursery at the National Seed Center in Samtenling. The nursery is expected to produce 40,000 cardamom seedlings for promotion and rehabilitation of approximately 26.4 acres annually.

“The government has also provided various forms of both financial and technical support to farmers to rehabilitate diseased cardamom plantations and establish new plantations,” the report stated.

The government has included cardamom as one of the commodities in the “buy-back” programme, fixing the ‘buy-back’ price of cardamom at Nu 540 a kilogramme for 2017.

The locally grown cardamom, called the large cardamom, which was first introduced in the early 70s and has become a major cash crop in southern dzongkhags, with total plantation area reaching as high as 6,968 hectares in 1994. In 2015, the total area under cardamom cultivation was 4,293.73 ha yielding approximately 2,091 MT.

In 2015, more than 845 MT of cardamom worth about Nu 940.85 million was exported to India and Bangladesh, while a smaller volume was traded informally.

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