Fresh cardamoms have arrived in the market in Phuentsholing but with price plummeting in the last two years, the spice is today fetching one of the lowest prices.

Suppliers, exporters, and farmers say that the prices range between Nu 600 to Nu 650 a kg. In late 2014 and early 2015, farmers fetched Nu 2,000 for a kilogram of cardamom. Considering the best current price of Nu 650, cardamom price has dropped more than thrice.

At the auction yard yesterday, a cardamom grower, Passang Lhamo from Chongaykha village in Phuentsholing gewog, brought a bag of cardamom from last year’s stock.

“This is the last bag from last year’s stock,” she said, adding that she would start bringing in the fresh cardamom in a week’s time.

However, Passang Lhamo said that cardamom harvest is not good this year compared to the previous years. “Diseases affected cardamom plants.”

She sold 12 bags of cardamoms in 2016. A bag contains 40kg of cardamom. “But the price was not good and it has still not improved,” she said.

In November 2016, cardamom prices suffered a severe drop when Indian traders were left cashless as a result of demonitisation. Then, the rate dropped to Nu 700 from Nu 900.

The current drop in the price is attributed to several factors, according to the exporters and suppliers.

The ongoing closure of cardamom export to India at the customs office across the border is attributed as the main factor. Cardamom export to India is on halt since the introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1. Under the GST system, the customs office at the border has asked the exporters to get certification from Kolkata for each consignment going to India. Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory’s (BAFRA) certification is not accepted.

An exporter based in Phuentsholing, Yeshey Wangchuk, said that he has cancelled export to Delhi. “Our parties had come here but we had to cancel the deal later,” he said.

Yeshey Wangchuk said that he would submit a grievance letter to relevant agencies. “Price would automatically drop if there is no market.”

He explained that the produce would pile up in the market and bring down the price.

An Indian supplier, Bablu Mia, said cardamom plantation in Bhutan has drastically increased in the last few years due to its commercial value.

“Farmers who grew maize and other crops grow cardamom today,” he said, adding that such a situation has led to more cardamom supply.

He said the market, on the other hand, has shrunk with Pakistan cardamom market in India closed.

A supplier from Norgaygang gewog in Samtse, Ngawang Tshering, also said that the price has dropped because there is more in the monotonous market, which is further shrinking. “The price is dropping.”

Currently, Bhutanese cardamom is exported only to Bangladesh. However, with a local festival on, the border gates are closed for a week now, putting a halt to export to Bangladesh.

Cardamom is among the top three commercial crops exported to India and Bangladesh besides mandarin and apple.

According to records with Bhutan Exporters’ Association, Bhutan has exported cardamom worth more than USD 33 million to Bangladesh from 2010 to 2015. In 2014, the country exported 610 metric tonnes of cardamom worth more than USD 10M to Bangladesh.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing