Concerted efforts of Spices Board fetch black cardamom higher prices in Sikkim

Gangtok, Jan.19 (ANI): Sikkim’s famed black cardamom has of late been giving its farmers a major economic boost, with the price of the endemic crop soaring more than six-fold in the past five years owing to intelligent intervention and grass root efforts by Spices Board.

The tiny hill-state, which grows 90 percent of the country’s black cardamom commonly called badi elaichi, currently sells it at around Rs 1,600 a kg vis-a-vis Rs 250 in 2010, through auctions of the crop facilitated by Spices Board every fortnight at the state’s market hub of Singtam in east Sikkim, according to top officials.

Added to it, from November 2015, the Spices Board has been feeding the crop’s growers with the prevailing price in Sikkim, largely prompting a chunk to avoid local middlemen who customarily pay them less, points out Dr.A. Jayathilak, Chairman of the Board.

“To ensure fast spread of the price info among the farmers, we text them market price all weekdays over mobile phones which all of them have these days. We have a database of over 500 growers of black cardamom across Sikkim, where it is called ‘thulu elaichi’,” he says, referring to the ‘Digital India’ spirit of the mission. “Even as that number is increasing swiftly, we also put up the changing prices on our website. That is in English, but the SMSs are in Nepalese language as well.”

The price rise has had a cascading effect to the benefit of large-cardamom growers in other states in the Northeast besides Uttarakhand, added Dr A Jayathilak.

The chairman has also organized a buyer-seller meet (BSM) to facilitate Sikkim farmers to sell their products directly to the exporters. Over 40 spice farmers and 22 exporters/traders from across the country are taking part in the BSM which provides a platform for the spice growers of Sikkim to establish direct trade linkages with exporters/traders by avoiding middlemen.

The major spices grown in Sikkim have been tested for intrinsic qualities & pesticide residues in the Board’s laboratory in Mumbai. The results confirm that Spices grown in Sikkim are rich in intrinsic parameters & has vast export potential as organic products.

The Spices Board-facilitated auctions at Singtam-30 km south of Gangtok-have buyers converging from across Sikkim as well as cities outside the state such as Kolkata and Siliguri (West Bengal) and Guwahati (Assam) to even as far as Indore (Madhya Pradesh).

The average quantity of black cardamom auctioned is 1.5 metric tonnes per auction which is conducted on a fortnightly basis. The auction generally results in sales of minimum 50% of the production in the state, reveals Spices Board Assistant Director (Marketing) Chandra Shekhar Ghatani, based in Gangtok.

The 1987-founded Board, next plans to facilitate e-auctions in Sikkim, says Dr A Jayathilak, “It should be on in six months or so.”

Dr Kuldeep Rai, Field Officer (East Sikkim), points out that the auction-related exercise is “holistic”, with the Board doing marketing, research, information campaign, linkage between farmers and mediation where necessary.

The Board has been playing a key role in promoting organic spice farming in this hill state, providing subsidy to its farmers under various schemes to encourage organic cultivation of Spice crops like large Cardamom, ginger, turmeric, herbal spices, seed spices and dalle chilly.

Headquartered at Kochi in Kerala, known for its spices for centuries, the Spices Board also participates in several domestic and international fairs for promoting organic spice producers and exporters. (ANI)

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