Covid-19 pandemic: Impact on cardamom plantations in Kerala

Elizabeth Thomas

This paper analyses the circumstances of cardamom cultivators and cultivations against the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala. As the cultivation of cardamom is highly labour intensive, the scarcity of labour force resulted in large scale decay of unplucked cardamom cloves in various plantations. The shortage of labour force also resulted in a drastic increase in labour cost for hand picking of cardamom cloves from the plants. This study focuses on unstructured interviews and conversations with large scale and small- scale planters, labourers, cardamom traders and people employed in commercial large scale drying of cardamom. The findings suggest that many cultivators organized various strategies to overcome the issues especially migrant labour crisis of employing unskilled labourers at a high cost, bringing migrant labourers from their hometowns in private buses at the expense of cultivators. Cardamom, called the queen of spices, proved worthy of its title when it fetched a record price in the market this year and brought good tidings to Kerala farmers who are otherwise affected by the vagaries of the weather. With the price hitting Rs 6,000/ kg, cardamom growing areas saw people buying acres of farms and those who had turned to other crops returning to cultivate the green gold. Kerala's reputation as the land of spices goes back at least 3,000 years. Here, Express delves into the aromatic world of spices with a special focus on Kerala.With the outbreak of the Covid -19, the farmers and traders of cardamom started facing serious challenges in their sector. There was a tremendous change in this field. Because of the lockdown interstate trade as well as export of the spices including cardamom was at a standstill. There was serious fall in the prices of cardamom. The cost of production increased as there was shortage in labour. The auction centres were also closed.