Indian Cardamom Guide

Published Sep 6, 2021
HS Code: 090831 - Spices; cardamoms, neither crushed nor ground
HS Code: 0702 - Nutmeg, mace, cardamoms, raw
Share in Export
24.23%Rank 2
Share in Import
16.62%Rank 2
Share in Production
Export Volume
1Y -25.79%
Import Volume
1Y -7.38%

Production Supply Chain

What are the production methods used by India as one of exporters and producers leading countries of cardamom?

Cardamom is grown by mainly 2 methods:

1. Primary Nursery

  • Digging the soil in pits to a depth of 30 cm and sowing beds of size 6×1×0.2 m are prepared and a thin layer of humus-rich forest soil is uniformly spread over the beds.
  • Sowing of the seeds is commenced, in rows spaced at 10 cm and 1 to 2 cm of the interval within the row. The seed rate for a 6 × 1 m sized bed is 30-50 G.
  • After the sowing process, the beds are covered with a thin layer of sand and mulched with grass or paddy straw to a thickness of 2 cm over which tree twigs are laid.
  • Watering of the beds is done regularly to maintain sufficient moisture and to promote germination.
  • Germination commences in about 20-25 days and may continue for a month or two.

2. Secondary Nursery

In this method of sowing and planting, any of the 2 processes are used:

- Bed nursery

  • The beds are prepared in the same manner as in the primary nursery method. Seedlings with 3-4 leaves are transplanted at a distance of 20 to 25 cm. Mulching and watering are performed immediately after the transplanting of seeds.
  • Earthing up the process is commenced after each fertilizer application and hand weeding is done once in 20-25 days.

- Polybag nursery

  • Polythene bags of size 20 × 20 cm and 100 gauge thickness are filled with a potting mixture consisting of forest topsoil, cow dung, and sand (preferably in the ratio of 3:1:1).
  • Seedlings at 3-4 leaf stages are transplanted into each bag.
  • Harvesting
  • The cardamom capsules are harvested when achieving maturity, indicated by the dark green color of rind and black-colored seeds.
  • Capsules ripen within a period of 120-135 days after the formation.
  • Harvesting is carried out at an interval of 15 -30 days.
  • Harvesting is carried out using a special knife known as an elaichi chhuri. The harvested spikes are stored for 2–3 days after harvesting.
  • Separation is mostly done manually.

How are cardamoms classified?

-Sizes: 8 mm, 7.5 mm, 7 mm (most preferred, and expensive) / 6.5 mm, 6 mm, 5 mm

-Color, ripeness: Seed and Green cardamoms are generally more expensive compared to the ripe ones

Seasonality of Main Producing Regions

What are main producing regions?

India is the second-largest producing country in the world, the exported volume and value have fluctuated since 2012, hit the record-high exported value and volume respectively in 2020 (USD 114 million) and 2017 (5,776 MT).

As per the latest Spices Board data, cardamom exports between April to February 2022-23 stood at 7,031 Mt, worth Rs 828.50 crore (USD 99.52 M), a decline of 25 percent in volume and 33 percent in value YOY In 2021-22, exports had peaked at 10,572 Mt, worth Rs 1,375.70 crore.(USD 165.25 M)

The main producing regions are Kerala (35%), Sikkim (17%), Karnataka (5.94%), Nagaland (5.86%), West Bengal (3.16%), Tamil Nadu (1.50%).

The seasonality of cardamom cultivation in India varies slightly across different regions, but in general, the harvesting season extends from late summer to early winter. Here is a rough breakdown of the seasonality by region:

Green/Small Cardamon regions :

1. Kerala (Idukki district):

Harvesting Season: August to January

Peak Season: September to November

2. Karnataka (Coorg district):

Harvesting Season: August to January

Peak Season: September to November

3. Tamil Nadu (Western Ghats region, Nilgiris, Kanyakumari):

Harvesting Season: August to January

Peak Season: September to November

2. Black/ Big Cardamon Regions :

4. Assam: In the northeastern part of India, Assam also has some areas where cardamom is cultivated.

5. Himachal Pradesh: Certain regions in Himachal Pradesh, particularly in the higher altitudes, may also engage in cardamom cultivation.

6. Sikkim: This northeastern state is known for its favorable conditions for cardamom cultivation.

7. Andhra Pradesh: Some parts of Andhra Pradesh, especially the hilly regions, may contribute to cardamom production.

These are general timelines, and the actual harvesting periods may be influenced by specific weather conditions, local agricultural practices, and other factors. 

What are the key varieties?

Small Cardamom (Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu), Large Cardamom (Sikkim, Assam, and West Bengal).  It’s a very niche market, usually a Small Cardamom business.

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