Cardamom price has fallen in Phuentsholing. Exporters and other traders paid farmers Nu 500 to Nu 540 per kilogram (kg) as of yesterday, a fall from Nu 600 to Nu 650 per kg in early September.

Farmers fetched Nu 2,000 per kg in late 2014 and early 2015. In November 2016, cardamom prices suffered a severe drop when the Indian traders were left cashless as a result of demonitisation. The rate dropped to Nu 700 from Nu 900. And it continued.

Yonten, a cardamom grower from Darla in Chukha, was busy early morning yesterday bargaining for a better price at a godown in lower market. The highest price he was offered was Nu 540 per kg.

“I brought 80kg today,” he said. “I am looking for a better price.”

Yonten said that the current price is the lowest he has seen since he started growing and selling cardamoms eight years ago. After some bargain, the Darla farmer decided to go to another place in hope of better price.

“I have about 200kg of cardamom at home,” he said.

Exporters cite various reasons for the drop in cardamom price.

Bhutan Export Business Line (BEBL) officials said there are plenty of cardamoms coming from Sikkim and Nepal.

“If our expectation is high, our buyers always say that they have options to buy from,” a BEBL marketing officer, Yeshey Wangchuk, said.

With the festival season on, buyers also take advantage as cardamom growers bring the spice in bulk in the market to generate capital to spend for the occasion. Buyers from across the border form syndicate and decide a low uniform price where growers and exporters from Bhutan have to give in, Yeshey Wangchuk said.

A trader from across the border, who works with a Bhutanese exporter, said that there is no demand in the market today.

“It is better not to buy because we may not be able to sell it later,” the trader said. “Although farmers look for high price, we are helpless.”

BEBL’s proprietor, Shivalal Subedi, said cardamom exports must be properly streamlined and markets studied.

“Government should encourage more Bhutanese exporters in the market,” he said. “In today’s scenario, most of the cardamom traders are not Bhutanese.”

BEBL exports to Silliguri, Delhi, and Bangladesh. Although the price is better in Delhi, buyers insist on quality, Shivalal Subedi said.

Traders said that the government has not carried out any research and studies about cardamom market in India and other places.

Chief marketing officer with the department of agriculture marketing and cooperatives (DAMC), Yonten Jamtsho, said the ministry initiated a study to find out reasons behind price drop. The findings will be published soon.

With the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1, export to India has also been affected since customs office across the border ask exporters to get certification from Kolkata for each consignment entering India.

According to records maintained by Bhutan Exporters Association, Bhutan exported cardamom worth more than USD 33 million to Bangladesh from 2010 to 2015. In 2014, the country exported 610 metric tonnes of cardamom to Bangladesh.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing