PANCHTHAR, March 17: Til Bikram Nembang of Phaktep in Phalgunanda Rural Municipality has not sold his harvested in August last year. He has been storing the processed big cardamom waiting for the price of the cash crop to go up. But there is no sign of the price going up even though new harvesting season is approaching nearer.
"I have invested huge amount of money in cardamom farming. The production was also good, but I am not getting reasonable price," said Chemjong. “The price offered by buyers is so low that I can't even recoup by investment."
Chemjong has eight quintals of big cardamom in stock.
Santosh Kambang of Linkhim of Taplejung has a different story to share. He has given up big cardamom farming, and is cultivating maize instead. "I had started big cardamom farming in paddy field sprawled over 12 ropani. As I cannot earn enough money to pay laborers, I am giving up big cardamom farming," he added. "Not only me, most of the farmers in our locality are reverting to traditional crops like maize and paddy."
According to Kambang, farmers of Phurambhu, Linkhim and Phawadin have quit big cardamom farming and focusing on traditional crops like maize and paddy.
For many years, big cardamom was a major cash crop for farmers of eastern mountain districts. The crop brought different economic benefits to many farmers of the area. But in recent years, earnings have remained far below their expectations. Traders are offering farmers Rs 30,000 per 40 kg of big cardamom. The crop fetched price of as high as Rs 110,000 per 40 kg some years ago. Many farmers say return from big cardamom farming these days is lower than what farmers invest.
Khem KC, who is involved in farming and trade of big cardamom, told Republica that earnings from big cardamom in the past was so good that farmers were educating children in good schools and even buying land and houses. "But the prices have been falling for the past two-three years," added KC.
According to Narendra Adhikari, central vice-chairperson of Big Cardamom Entrepreneurs Federation, the price of cardamom was Rs 23,000-Rs 25,000 per 40 kg on Sunday. "Many farmers have stored big cardamom in their houses hoping for the prices to go up. I think there is no demand in India right now due to coronavirus outbreak," he added. "Maybe we are not getting good prices because production has increased in Bhutan and India itself."
Big cardamom farming is down in more than 42 districts of Nepal. Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Panchthar, Ilam, Dhankuta, Tehrathum and Khotang are the major producers of Province 1.
According to Department of Agriculture, big cardamom farming is done in 12,120 hectares of land in Nepal including 11,300 hectares in Province 1. As India is the main market for big cardamom grown in Nepal, its price is determined by Indian traders.