India’s cardamom exports jump in 2021 as main importers prowl on the country’s bumper crop

Published Dec 18, 2021
India’s cardamom export sector has demonstrated solid growth in 2021. As the latest trade data show, the shipments of this aromatic spice from India exceeded 8,300 tonnes from January-October 2021, representing a 110% surge year on year. The boom in exports of the world’s third most expensive condiment from India was supported by the overlap of a few factors on the market. Low domestic sales caused by sluggish consumption amid COVID lockdowns, together with large crops in 2020/2021 and 2021/22 have been keeping domestic supplies high. This exerted pressure on domestic and export price offers. This situation has immediately attracted importers’ attention, who have been actively replenishing their stocks throughout the whole of 2021.

India’s cardamom bumper crop

India’s cardamom production has been growing for two consecutive seasons, continuing a recovery after the disastrous 2019/20, when the harvest was affected by adverse weather conditions. Producers and market players expect this year’s cardamom harvest to be in the range of 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes in 2021/22, up 11-33% from the previous season’s result.

Source: Tridge

There are a few factors that support such an optimistic forecast for the current season. The foremost contributor to an expected increase in the harvest is the weather, which, like a lottery, determines the success of the crop every season. This year’s adequate amount of precipitation during monsoon in the key production region, Kerala, has been beneficial for cardamom plants.

“The rainfalls in the south of India have been good during the whole monsoon. Sufficient amount of rain in June was very important to the cardamom crop,” mentions Tridge’s representative in India, Mohammed Bilal Zafar.

Apart from the weather factor, higher production of the aromatic spice is guaranteed by planting cardamom in new areas in the key production states, Kerala, and Karnataka, resulting in higher yields.

Source: Indian Board of Spices, market player’s estimate

Exports on a rise

India’s green cardamom exports have leaped in 2021. The data from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry show that cardamom shipments from the country reached a record 8,304 tonnes from January-October 2021, showing a 111% surge year on year. The export value has soared to $156 million in the first ten months of 2021, 90% more than in 2020.

Source: Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry

The rise in sales to the foreign market has been fostered by a cumulation of several fundamental factors. First, the demand from the main consuming countries has been firm throughout the year. The United Arab Emirates has continued to strengthen its top position as an Indian green cardamom importer, with total purchases reaching 2,970 tonnes in the first ten months of 2021, a 157% jump compared to the previous year. Not only does this country use cardamom as an ingredient for Arabic coffee, but also serves as a hub for selling the aromatic spice to other Middle East countries.

In 2021, more good news came to Indian cardamom traders from other West Asian countries. Saudi Arabia, the second-biggest buyer of India’s cardamom, eased the pesticide level residue requirements for the Indian spice exports in 2021. This measure had been repeatedly introduced several times by Saudi Arabia in 2019 and in 2020. Since then, Indian farmers have reduced the number of pesticides used for cardamom from 50 to 10. Thanks to the relief of the previously introduced measures, Saudi Arabia acquired 1,085 tonnes of green cardamom from India in January-October 2021, three times more than in 2020.

The above-mentioned restrictions from Saudi Arabia in 2019 and 2020 made Indian exporters look for other destination markets. West Asian countries showed the highest interest in cardamom from India, including Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar.  

Source: Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Another factor that activated main importers’ prowl for Indian cardamom relates to affordable export prices, which have been gradually falling in 2021. The first sign of a decreasing price trend was seen in January 2021, when a big harvest started entering the market. Meanwhile, when the supplies in the domestic trade arena were building up, local demand was sluggish because of COVID. Multiple lockdowns in the country caused people’s incomes to drop and limited spending money on expensive spice. In addition, physical trade was limited because of closures.

Since August 2021, domestic and export prices have been plummeting at a faster pace, as farmers started to harvest another bumper crop. “Cardamom prices have decreased significantly this year. At the end of the second week of December, export prices for green cardamom were ranging from $14/Kg to $16/Kg for small sizes (6 mm, 7-8 mm) FOB Indian ports, whereas last season export prices were touching $40/Kg in some cases,” mentions Rekha D, Tridge’s representative in India.

Foreign buyers immediately seized the opportunity of lower prices and have been ramping up imports of fresh arrivals of green cardamom from India. In addition, the offers from Guatemala, the world’s leading exporter of this aromatic spice, were low in August-September, as new-crop gathering in the country began in October 2021, with active exports starting from mid-November. 


Moneycontrol. Demand slump and output rise hit cardamom price, hurt growers

Indian spices. Spice Board India

Informistmedia. Cardamom output may hit 6-year high on good rains 

The Economic Times. Cardamom exports to Saudi Arabia stall over chemical residue norms

Tridge India - Whole Green Cardamom

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