The queen of spices is way too expensive that the King of Spices (Pepper). Though Pepper looks more dark and rough to be the King of spices, the price of pepper is way too low compared to the Queen of Spices (Green Cardamom).
But Why? This could be a reason that comes to the minds of many people when they see this relatively high price of Green Cardamom to other spices. Green Cardamom is the most expensive spice in the world after Saffron and Vanilla.
While Pepper is grown extensively in many parts of the world, cardamom is limited to a few regions across the world. Green Cardamom requires a temperature range between 18 to 24 degrees on an average to sustain and yield better. Moreover it is a very labour intensive crop which require extensive care.
In India Green Cardamom is grown in the high ranges of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Among them Kerala is the highest producer, which primarily spread across the Cardamom hills of central Kerala – This area is mostly within the highrange district of Idukki.
Cardamom Hills of Idukki in Kerala
The labour costs in Kerala are very high compared to Indian standards, this could be because of the relative rise in the cost of living in Kerala. The cardamom plantations in the cardamom hills rely on the labour force that come the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, where labour and cost of living are cheaper. Everyday around 25,000 Jeeps with around 10 to 15 labourers shuttle between the the districts of Theni in Tamil Nadu and Idukki in Kerala.
Cardamom is also highly sensitive plant, which requires good observation and care. It is very prone to insects and fungal attacks which makes the cost of maintenance very high. Today you have hybrid yielding varieties of the plant, but by nature it is a very sensitive plant.
On an average a planter can expect between 1 to 1.4 kilos dry green cardamom from a cardamom plant per year. The per plant cost could range from 250 rupees to 550 rupees considering the location, temperature, weather, water availability etc.
When you inspect these factors you can guess as to why the cardamom as a commodity is so expensive. More to this, the production capacity goes down when the weather is not favourable. For example, during the floods of 2018 in Kerala, many plantations had to bear the brunt of the flood. Plants were destabilised as part of the winds, excessive water flow and logging. As part of flood, the price of cardamom went up to around Indian rupee 5000 for the consecutive years of 2019 and early 2020.
Just like any commodity, the price of green cardamom are eventually comes as an outcome of the demand and supply factors. When the production of the crop is affected, it will not be able to meet to demand and as a result you can expect a price hike for the crop. 80% of the produce is consumed within India. For us, green cardamom is exotic and plays an important role in bringing great flavours to our Masalas and cuisines.