Cardamom traders in Phuentsholing say manipulations by middlemen result in the drop in cardamom prices.

Some claim it is a syndicate formed by a handful of middlemen from across the border, who work for Bhutanese traders that have deteriorated the market.

Cardamom price yesterday dropped to Nu 480 a kg from the day before. Few days ago, the spice fetched Nu 525.

Singye Wangdi of Singye Export and Import in the town said buyers in Siliguri offered Nu 550 to Nu 570.

“But some people here are manipulating the price,” he said, adding there were about seven people involved in disrupting the market price in Phuentsholing.

“Our buyers have told us that they don’t prefer to buy from us.”

Singye Wangdi said it would be better for the farmers if Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited took cardamom auction back. The highest bidders would then take the cardamom from the farmers.

Traders also say that price is better in Tendruk, Samtse, with Nu 525 a kg, which shows that the market in Phuentsholing town is manipulated.

Meanwhile, this year has been the worst for cardamom growers and traders in the country with prices falling to a record low of Nu 450 per kg, a drop from Nu 750 in February this year.

The proprietor with the Bhutan Export Business Line (BEBL), Rinzin Dorji, said workers from across the border, who work for Bhutanese exporters, created the syndicate.

“They are experienced players in the market and know the trick of the trade,” he said. “Sadly, farmers are losing.”

Rinzin Dorji also shared the price decrease is due to the overall increase of cardamom production in recent years. “The price has decreased because of more supply in the market.”

Farmers like Gangto Dukpa from Darla had more than 100kgs of cardamom but he cancelled his travel to Phuentsholing at the last moment.

“The price had decreased from earlier Nu 525 per kg,” he said.

In August this year, traders also complained about the influx of inferior quality cardamom into Bhutan, which then was exported to Bangladesh as a Bhutanese brand.

Local traders claimed cardamom from Nepal and Assam entered the country.

They claimed that cardamom from these places is graded in Siliguri and the small-sized cardamom, which is low in quality, entered Phuentsholing. People involved in this did it to escape tax, as Bhutan cardamom export is tax-free in Bangladesh.

Rinzin Dorji said this has decreased now as exporters affected had informed the trade office. “There is surveillance now.”

Traders in Phuentsholing are also calling for strict monitoring from concerned agencies with regards to the weighing of cardamom farmers bring for sale.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing