Report - Global

20 April 2020

India Cardamom Report

India produces a wide range of spices and holds a prominent position in world spice production. Because of the varying climates – from tropical to sub-tropical to temperate-almost all spices grow splendidly in India. In reality almost all the states and union territories of India grow one or the other spices. Under the act of Parliament, a total of 52 spices are brought under the purview of Spices Board. However, 109 spices are notified in the ISO list which include cardamom. Furthermore, India are known for its two types of cardamom which are small cardamom and large cardamom.

The differences between small cardamom and large cardamom are described below:


Table 1.The Differences between Small and Large Cardamom

Small Cardamom Large Cardamom
Small cardamoms popularly known as chhotielachi (Elettaria cardamom) or the true cardamom, Large cardamom known as badaelalchi [aframomum and amomum spices).
Small cardamom is one of the most exotic and highly priced spices Large cardamom is the dried fruit of a perennial herbaceous plant.
It belongs to cardamom family named as a zingiberaceae, other names, of small cardamom are lesser cardamom, true cardamom, Malabar cardamom. Large cardamom also belongs to the family zingiberaceae, its other names are big cardamom and black cardamom.
The small cardamom, described as a queen of spices, is a rich spice culled from the seeds of elettaria cardamom. In large cardamom is also referred to as ‘Black Cardamom’. It is a dried fruit of a perennial plant. The fresh fruits are handpicked when mature dried and cured. The fruit is almost the size of a nut Meg .The dark red brown capsules contain several seeds in each cell, held together by a viscid, sugary pulp. Propagation is by seeds or portions of rhizomes.
Small cardamom is a native of Western Ghats of South India. It is cultivated in three states, viz., Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Large cardamom is a native to Eastern Himalayan region. It is cultivated in India mainly in Sikkim, Assam and West Bengal.
The harvesting season of small Cardamom is August to March and marketing season is October to May But the harvesting season of large Cardamom is August to December and Marketing season is October to February.
Small cardamom is used for preparation of medicine, food, perfume and beverages. It is used for preparation of food and pan masaala and medicine.
Small cardamom is exported to West Asia, European countries and Middle East countries like Japan and Russia The large cardamom is exported to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Singapore and UK.


Harvesting and processing

Cardamom plants normally start bearing two years after planting. In most of the areas in India the peak period of harvest is during October-November. Picking is carried out at an interval of 15-25 days. Ripe capsules are harvested in order to get maximum green colour during curing. After harvest, capsules are dried either in kiln drying or electrical drying or in the sun drying. It has been found that soaking the freshly harvested green cardamom capsules in 2% washing soda solution for 10 minutes prior to drying helps to retain the green colour during drying. For kiln drying, over night drying at 50-60o C is required, for electrical drying, it should be dried at 45-50o C for 14-18 hours, while for sun drying it require 5-6 days or more depending on the availability of sunlight.  The capsules kept for drying are spread thinly and stirred frequently to ensure uniform drying. The dried capsules are rubbed with hands or coir mat or wire mesh and winnowed to remove any foreign matterand then sorted out according to size and colour, and stored in black polythene lined gunny bags to retain the green colour during storage.


Area Plantation of Cardamoms in India

In India, small cardamoms are produced in Kerala, Karnatakaand Tamil Nadu State. In 2016, the total area under small cardamoms plantation were reported 70,080 Ha of the 3 states above with Kerala State being reported with the largest planting area, amounting to 39,680 Ha followed by Karnataka States with 25,240 Ha and Tami Nadu with 5,160 Ha. Furthermore, similar to small cardamom, large cardamom was also widely cultivated in India, in the same period, large cardamoms were mostly produced in Sikkim and West Bengal State. The total area of large cardamom plantation in the 2 states was reported amounting 26,387 Ha which 23,082 Ha of it located in Sikkim State and 3,305 Ha in West Bengal State.2017 saw a decreasing trend in cardamoms planting area. India’s area of plantation for small cardamom dropped to a total of 69,357 Ha. Thus, recording a decrease by 1% as compared to the previous period, of whichKerala State amounted to 39,080 Ha, Karnataka States with 25,117 Ha and Tamil Nadu State with 5,160 Ha. Furthermore, contrary to small cardamoms, the total area oflarge cardamoms plantation wasreported with an increase of 1% as compared to the previous period with a total of 26,617 Ha of which Sikkim Statewas 23,312 Ha and West Bengal Statewas 3,305 Ha.

2018 saw relative unchangedtrend area plantation for both small and large cardamoms in India. Small cardamoms in India in this period was reported with a total area of plantation 69,330 Ha of which Kerala State 39,080 Ha, Karnataka State 25,135 Ha and Tamil Nadu State 5,115 Ha. Whilst, the total area plantation of large cardamoms in India were reported unchanged.

In 2019, the area of plantation for small cardamoms was estimated stable and relatively unchanged as compared to the period of 2018 with a total 69,132 Ha of which Kerala State 38,882 Ha, Karnataka State 25,135 Ha and Tami Nadu State 5,115 Ha. Contrary to small cardamoms, the total area of plantation for large cardamoms was estimated with a significant increase of 61% as compared to the previous period to a total of 42,826 Ha. The increase of the total area of plantation for large cardamoms in India could be contributed to the opening of large cardamoms plantation in other state in India such as Nagaland State and Arunachal Pradesh State. In2019, estimated area of plantation for India’s large cardamom were Sikkim State with 23,312 Ha, West Bengal States with 3,305 Ha, Nagaland States with 6,308 Ha and Arunachal Pradesh State with 9,901 Ha. Furthermore, for the year 2020, the area under cardamoms cultivation was projected to slightly decrease by 0.1% as compared to the previous year to a total of 111,869 Ha in 2020 which 62% or a total of 69,043 Ha was of small cardamoms and 38% or 42,826 Ha was of large cardamoms (Table 2).


Production of Cardamoms in India

Cardamoms production by India in the period of 2016 until 2019 had fluctuated greatly. Production of small cardamoms in 2016 was reported to reach 23,890 Mt of whichKerala State was reported to be the largest producer with 21,503 Mt or 90% of the total production of small cardamom m in India during that period. Furthermore, production of large cardamom in 2016 was reported to reach 5,315 Mt of which Sikkim State was reported to be the largest producer with 4,465 Mt or 84% of the total production of large cardamom in India duringthat period.  2017 saw a decreasing trend for production of small cardamom. India was reported to have onlyproducedsmall cardamoms to a total of 17,990 Mt. Thus, recording a decrease by 25% as compared to previous period. Contrary to small cardamoms, production of large cardamoms was reported with an increase of 5% as compared to the previous period to a total of 5,572 Mt. Furthermore, in 2018 production of small and large cardamom showed increasing trend and were reported with an increase of 15% and 6% respectively as compared to 2017 to a total of 20,650 Mt for small cardamoms and 5,906 Mt for large cardamoms. In 2019, production of small cardamoms was estimated to only reach 12,940 Mt or a decrease by 37% when compared to previous period. Contrary to small cardamoms, production of large cardamoms in 2019 was estimated witha significant increased by 47% or 2,763 Mt as compared to the previous period with total 8,669 Mt. The increase in production of large cardamoms could be contributed to the addition of new plantation area of large cardamoms in Nagaland State and Arunachal Pradesh State.Furthermore, the production of cardamoms in 2020 was projected to slightly increase by 1% as compared to 2019 to a total of 21,928 Mt which 60% of it consisted of small cardamoms and 40% of large cardamoms.The projected increase of cardamoms production could be contributed to favourable weather conditions (Table 2). During 2106-2020, the highest total production of small and large cardamoms in India was reported in 2016 with 29,205 Mt whilst the lowest was estimated to occur in 2019 with 21,609 Mt.

19 August 2019



Cardamom, the queen of spices, with its varied uses and dominance in the global spice trade, is the oldest and widely used spice in the world. It has occupied a position that is supreme and unique and is today a foreign exchange earner for several countries e.g. India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Vietnam and etc. Cardamom has secured a pivotal position in food, pharmaceutical, perfumery and cosmetic industries. With the development of modern science and technology and greater awareness and demand among people for the use of natural products, particularly in food and pharmaceuticals, cardamom has indeed secured a better position and has better prospect in the years to come. Trade on cardamom can promote sustainable cardamom industry, to reduce the number of poor cardamom farmers in low income countries.

In order of importance, cardamom is considered the second important spice next to pepper for its “low volume high value” nature. In fact cardamom was originally grown as a wild crop and the native tribal living in the interior forest cared for its growth and harvest. Organised form of cardamom plantation was undertaken only after the economic value of the cardamom was discovered. Cardamom is a fruit of several spices of the Zingiberaceae (ginger family) from the Genus, Amomum and Elettaria a monotypic genus, represented by Elettaria cardamom, distributed in the tropical Indo-malaya region and cultivated for the capsules, which furnish the cardamom commerce. Elettaria cardamom is an Indian plant in which rhizome produces leafless shoots and these bear the fruit which, when ripened yields the spice, cardamom. Elettaria cardamom is otherwise called as small cardamom or lesser cardamom or true cardamom or green cardamom.

2.0    Type of cardamom

The name cardamom is used for species within three genera in the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae), Elettaria, Amomum and Aframomum. Among these, Aframomum is widely cultivated in Africa and Madagascar, whereas Amomum mainly grows in a few places of Asia and Australia. These two varieties are considered as inferior substitutes for Elettaria cardamom, the true cardamom that is distributed from India to western Malaysia. The Elettaria cardamom, which is also known as small cardamom, green cardamom, or cardamon is native to the moist forest of southern India and cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Sumatra, Nepal, Guatemala, Thailand, Central America, Indo China, Tanzania, Egypt, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Laos, Vietnam, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Brazil. It is a pungent aromatic spice and medicinal herb. It is a perennial plant that can grow between six and twelve feet height. Cardamom grows well in humid and moderately cool climate, filtered sunlight through the tree canopy, humus rich soil, well-distributed rainfall and protection from heavy winds.

3.0    The history of cardamom

Cardamom originated in the monsoon forest of the Malabar coast in south-west India. It has reigned as the “master spice” from its earliest usage about 4,000 years ago. The plants grew in such abundance in this region that this area became known as Cardamom Hills. During the 19th century, plantations of cardamom were set up by British colonists and this is where much of the green and black cardamom that we use still comes from today. Guatemala is the biggest commercial producer of cardamom. In some parts of Guatemala, it is considered even more valuable than coffee as a crop.

The important of cardamom can markedly be perceived throughout history. Western adventurers travelled thousands of miles over land and sea for this lucrative trade treasure. In fact, cardamom seeds were priceless gems that lured men into the discovery of a great new world, through their cardamom trade and consequently, cardamom route. It then became an integral part of the civilization of the west.

Both big and small cardamoms are natives of India and West Indies. This spice was one of the earliest trading commodities between the Orient and European countries and many seafaring expeditions were launched in search of it.

The cardamom contains higher levels of cineol and limonene and hence is more aromatic cardamom comes from the seeds of a ginger-like plant. The small, brown-black sticky seeds are contained in a pod in three double rows with about six seeds in each row. The pods are between 5-20 mm (1/4”-3/4”) long, the larger variety known as ‘black’, being brown and the smaller being green. White-bleached pods are also available. The pods are roughly triangular in cross section and oval or oblate. Their dried surface is rough and furrowed, the large ‘blacks’ having deep wrinkles. The texture of the pod is that of tough paper. Pods are available whole or split and the seeds are sold loose or ground. It is best to buy the whole pods as ground cardamom quickly loses flavour.

4.0    Uses of cardamom

Cardamom has a myriad of uses. These include uses as a seasoning to enhance the flavor of food, as a preservative for meat, as a garnish to add piquancy and color to a host of dished and as an essential oil in perfumes, cosmetics and medicines. Cardamom is both universal and versatile. Its ability to subtly enliven foods without overpowering their flavor makes cardamom indispensable in almost every cuisine around the world today. In fact, it is widely used in the seasoning, aromatics and health food industries. It is also well-known in its medicinal and pharmaceutical uses. Ancient people believed that with its supernatural powers, cardamom could drive evil spirits. They also used this spice to mask offensive or unpleasant odours.

Over the centuries, cardamom with its diverse properties has been used to treat wide range of disorders, particularly in India. It is used in the treatment of urinary complaints, disorders of the liver, haemorrhoids and as means of removing fat. It has been used for centuries for stimulant, carminative, treatments for constipation, diarrhea and as a digestive aid. Sometimes, cardamom also added to quinine to increase its action in traditional medical uses.

More and more researchers today are recognizing the extensive application of cardamom in the preparation of antiviral and antibacterial principles in traditional systems of medicines, such as Ayurveda, aromatherapy, homeopathy and Unani. Biological investigations of cardamom have also shown that it acts as central nervous system depressant, anti-inflammatory and has hepato-protective and intestinal permeability properties.  Cardamom has been used as bioavailability enhancer to increase the permeability of intestinal cell too. The various medicinal uses of cardamom are gradually acknowledged recently, not only in India, but also in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, there is still ample room for cardamom to develop in modern medicine.

5.0    World cardamom industry

Cardamom, by virtue of its versatile use in the modern world, has earned a reputation as the Queen of spices. Cardamom rules the spice trade, both in term of volume and value. It is the most traditional and important spice in the international trade. In the global trade composition, International Trade Centre-UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) has estimated that cardamom contributed 3% of the total spice trade by volume. In term of value and volume, the global spice trade is estimated at US $1.5 to 2.0 billion and 500 thousand metric tons in quantity (UNCTAD).

The world spice market is growing and significant growth has been noticed in specific spice segment, like hot spices in the United States and aromatic culinary herbs in France. Major growth of spices in accounted for by the industrial and food service sectors. In developed countries, the usage of cardamom in food industry has increased substantially because of its taste, flavor and seasoning characteristics. More than 60% of cardamom is consumed in the food industrial and service sectors, due to the shift in the eating habits all over the world. The remaining portion is consumed in household, medicine, perfume, health and beauty segments. Ethnic foods, like India, Chinese and Thai food make use of large amount of cardamom. These have a growing impact in many countries and are expanding to cover wide range of tastes of food. In developing countries, 90% of the cardamom is consumed in the household segments (UNCTAD).

6.0    World cardamom production and export

The production of cardamom is very much dependent on the vagaries of agro-climatic factors, pest and diseases occurrence, as well as price mechanisms. High price coupled with good culture practices, favorable weather situation and low incidence of pests and diseases often result in higher production level. Higher prices will normally increase area under cultivation, resulting in more rounds of harvest and subsequently increase cardamom production.

The most common species, Elettaria cardamomum or small cardamom is by far best in terms of quality. India is the leading small cardamom producer, producing around 38,000 MT in 2016, followed by Guatemala where the production is around 35,000 MT in the same period.

Cardamom is one of the most important export products and plays significant role in income and employment of cardamom producers. Guatemala, India, Sri Lanka,. According to Tridge-Globaltrade Platform, in 2016, the total world production of cardamom is about 121,939 MT.  India, Indonesia and Guatemala produce, on average, 104,514 MT of cardamom or 85.71% of world cardamom production and export 44,508 or 78.21% of world cardamom export.

Table 1: Top cardamom producing countries in 2016

Country Country rank/share

in production %

Production volume (MT) Growth  production (1 year) Export value (USD)
India 31.11 38,000 +72.7 24,022,803
Guatemala 29.04 35,475 +2.8 154,488,339

Source: Tridge – Globaltrade Platform


Table 2: World export of Cardamom


Exporter/Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
World 55,976 62,901 59,587 56,905 57,178
Guatemala 38,812 38,989 33,327 35,645 35,695
Indonesia 6,698 7,737 6,246 4,034 6,892
India 2,621 4,230 5,308 4,829 4,698
Nepal 2,173 3,516 2,996 3,011 4,690
Singapore 1,487 1,425 1,638 736 961
Sri Lanka 12 5 116 767 818
Bhutan 5 53 484 38 494
Netherland 469 352 318 444 481
UAE 2,075 4,033 6,064 3,392 454
Honduras 184 218 433 676 370
UK 117 159 158 275 265
Saudi Arabia 110 326 426 420 249
Jordan 204 78 45 122 242
Myanmar 227 1,188 1,326 1,802 115
Germany 134 112 120 113 110
Guyana 0 0 0 0 107

Source: Tridge – Globaltrade Platform


Both cardamom pod and seed are being traded in the international spice market. Majority of the cardamom is traded in whole or unground form, although there has been a significant increase in the trade of value added cardamom products, which are popularly traded internationally, comprise of cardamom powder, cardamom oil and cardamom oleoresin.


Today, there is a great challenge for the cardamom producing countries to meet the increasing demand of quality products by consumers. Authorities in most of the OECD countries are imposing and enforcing stricter rule and regulations on imports and production of food and food products. Importers and processors in almost all countries are organized in trade organizations, not only to discuss contract specifications, but also to jointly find a way on how to comply with these regulations. In Europe, these trade and industries association are organized under the banner of the European Spice Association, while the America counterpart is under the American Spice Trade Association. To further ensure the cardamom and it products are in compliance with the International standards and can move freely in trade, all cardamom producing countries must work closely to develop a common strategy for improving the quality of cardamom from the farm level upwards.



7.0    World cardamom demand and consumption

The quantity imported of cardamom in 2017 has been reported 47,889 tones and annual growth value of imported between 2016-2017 is 41%, which shows international demand for cardamom has been grown (ITC, Trade Map 2017). Table below also showed that the Middle Eastern countries constitute key global consumers of cardamom. The popularity that this spice enjoys can be explained by the wide variety of national dishes using it as a major component ingredient and the age-old tradition of using cardamom spices in medicine. At the same time, the major consumer markets of the Middle East, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are fully supported by product imports. A significant proportion of the import volume to these countries is supplied by Guatemala; a slightly smaller volume is supplied by India. Data obtained showed that in 2017, Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of cardamom, comprising 19.3% of the world market (UN Contrade and ITCF statistic). This is followed by UAE, Syrian, Jordan, India, Bangladesh and Singapore (UN Contrade and ITCF statistic). The Middle East continues to be the major export market for Indian cardamom, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where cardamom is used extensively in the preparation of “kahwa”–a drink that is a symbol of hospitality in every home–and is widely used as a flavoring  ingredients in whole and ground form. In Asia, it adds a lingering flavor to most cuisines -both modern and traditional. In the Scandinavian countries, it is used in baked products and in confectioneries. In Europe and North America, it is an ingredient in curry powder & some sausage products. The European market remains negligible, despite the use of cardamom, both as a spice and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. As, cardamom are not grown in Europe, consumption is fully buoyed and supported by imports.

Table 3: World Import of Cardamom 2013-2017 

Importer 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
World 39,515 314,220 50,261 367,876 51,203 443,676 46,133 340,834 47,889 481,464
UAE 6,750 53,409 10,872 81,563 12,802 106,192 5,937 43,971 9,226 95,969
Saudi Arabia 12,155 126,660 11,513 114,286 11,005 122,364 9,590 88,644 8,135 121,864
Vietnam 59 702 28 230 9 76 13 98 6,398 9,949
India 1,845 13,589 4,626 34,090 4,485 53,990 4,399 44,276 4,369 38,646
Bangladesh 1,765 16,377 0 0 3,981 35,713 3,459 20,144 3,737 35,417
Nepal 177 649 1,959 8,106 428 2,376 1,390 9,023 1,481 10,525
Jordan 1,980 7,740 1,035 4,630 1,161 8,112 1,322 8,711 1,348 12,536
Kuwait 833 9,181 915 9,313 906 10,140 992 9,092 1,084 14,914
Singapore 1,600 9,674 1,598 10,037 1,491 11,566 795 5,709 1,069 11,905
Syrian 2,145 6,062 2,054 7,912 2,153 9,361 1,661 5,711 9,009 6,935
Egypt 0 0 1,312 9,767 915 7,735 925 8,467 874 10,205
US 941 9,719 984 7,901 969 8,740 1,117 9,109 856 10,655
UK 698 6,763 671 7,097 629 6,938 592 6,329 704 8,736
Iraq 0 0 0 0 319 1,787 1,571 8,884 703 7,622
Netherland 688 3,090 712 3511 527 3,235 848 5,095 679 6,242
Germany 615 3,996 584 3,944 479 4,051 547 4,291 553 6,254
Qatar 546 5,580 297 2,383 429 3,580 400 2,779 458 5,414
Oman 441 2,456 592 2,238 544 2,345 396 1,889 428 3,121
Japan 360 4,791 365 3,759 339 4,007 296 3,361 382 5,457
Malaysia 309 1,669 282 1,487 341 2,615 383 3,721 349 3,520
Sri Lanka 27 323 40 252 59 479 305 2,787 322 2,192
Sudan 0 0 0 0 0 0 865 4,519 285 2,120
Canada 314 2,939 226 1,967 298 3,254 191 2,139 273 3,798
Iran 247 1,022 159 652 0 0 821 5,644 214 3,652
Myanmar 31 368 64 524 49 417 140 1,009 204 2,085
Other 141 601 51 267 10 98 60 514 218 2,008

Source: Codex committee on spice and culinary herbs 4th session meeting report, (2018). 

The highest annual rates of growth with regard to cardamom consumption from 2013 to 2017 were recorded in 2017 with a more than 14% growth indicated that there is an increasing demand in cardamom in future market. Amongst the leading consuming countries, high levels of per capita consumption were recorded in the UAE (0.98 kg per 1,000) and Saudi Arabia (0.25 kg per 1,000), which were significantly higher than the global average of 6.2 mg per 1,000.

Table 4: Pattern of world cardamom import 

World import data
Year Import quantity, MT Value, USD Growth rate in value (%)
2013 39,515 314,220
2014 50,261 367,876 +17
2015 51,203 443,676 +20
2016 46,133 340,834 -30
2017 47,889 481,585 +14

    Source: Codex committee on spice and culinary herbs 4th session meeting report, (2018). 

8.0    World cardamom price

Cardamom price tend to move in a cyclical way and price fluctuations vary from one year to the next. In general, price vary substantially, largely because of the fluctuations in the supply from major cardamom producing countries. The price swings were accentuated by speculative trading in the past, but this has been less evident in recent years. The price in 2016 -2019 were recorded as the most favorable years, which registered the highest average price level. The price reached a peak during in 2018 at USD 31.96/kg.  Today, the cardamom price reached another peak at USD60.86/kg. International market price of cardamom is depends much on the supply and demand relations, beside other factors, such as psychology and speculation. To avoid waste of resources and most important to protect the welfare of the poor cardamom farmers, exchange of information is needed crucial, to give more exact and reliable information for international businessman in the cardamom producing countries and to make correct decisions in stockholding, as well as the sale of cardamom.

Table 5: World cardamom prices

Years Max price (USD/kg) Average price (USD/kg)
2019 60.86 27.45
2018 31.96 17.45
2017 14.58 12.45
2016 20.14 17.10
2015 13.96 8.41
2014 13.59 10.85
2013 12.76 12.48

Source: India Spice Board daily price report, 2019

9.0    Challenges to cardamom industry

On market access, non-tariff barriers coming in the way of access to the markets of industrial countries need to be reviewed. Cardamom producing countries must become a part of the process, by which sanitary and phyto-sanitary (sanitation standards of plant and plant-generic products in the market of the importing nations) standards are set. These are often used by developed countries to create trade barriers against developing country exports. Cardamom producing countries must argue against obligatory, across-the-board tariff reductions. Developing countries must be allowed to place quantitative restrictions on imports wherever there is clear evidence that imports will erode or destroy the livelihoods of asset-poor groups.


The key challenge in the international market, faced by the cardamom exporters is the market price volatility of more than 60% with high frequency changes, i.e. from USD 8.0 to over USD 15.00 per kg in 3 months. The cardamom production is affected by excess or shortage of rains, so production increases or decreases rapidly. The shelf lives of various varieties of cardamom berries are not long, under normal open storage conditions. Moreover, the producers are not economically in a position to afford to wait for the prospects of a revival of prices in the market or price stabilization, which generally are not predictable. Added to that are the price manipulative tactics practiced by many foreign import market intermediaries. In the international markets, where stringent regulatory norms are set by importing countries, high quality packaging is the need of the hour. The respective government should take measures to support their country exporters to improve their packaging and develop modern packaging for increased shelf life, increased attractiveness and visibility, reduced storage space, customer friendly opening and closing, and overall better presentation of their spices in markets abroad. Scientifically devised and qualitative packaging would not only keep the product safe, but also promote sales. Better packaging will reduce risk of contamination and damage during transit.


Cardamom exporters are not satisfied with the pricing practices adopted by the market intermediaries. There is considerable degree of exploitation by the intermediaries in the cardamom market. Small and medium scale producers of cardamom are being exploited more than the large-scale producers. Exploitation by market intermediaries differ depending on the experience levels of the cardamom producers. The least experienced are being exploited more than the rest. In general, marketing societies are more realistically useful and effective to the cardamom exporters in sourcing the commodity.

Most of the exporters do not get the international price for the spices exported. Risks of contract defaults and settlement problems are very high in the spices export business. Small and medium scale exporters experience the problem more, compared to the large-scale exporters. Spices exporters of different forms of business do not differ in this respect, but the new entrants have more difficulties than the experienced ones.

There are monopolies in the international market that are strong enough to control the global trade and prices of spices. Many of the exporters are experiencing the adverse consequence of such practices. Speculative practices influence the global spices market considerably. Such practices in the export market have both positive & negative impacts on the export business.

Exchange rate fluctuations do not have telltale impacts on majority of the small-scale export businesses. On the other hand, the large-scale exporters do feel such impacts, which could be either positive depending on upward trend of the currency value and vice versa. Further, the impact of the exchange rate fluctuation is more on experienced exporters than on new entrants.

From the domestic fronts, challenges also come from upstream, midstream and downstream activities. From the upstream activities, the issue includes:

  • High cost of production;
  • Low production yield;
  • Overdose of usage of fertilizer and pesticide;
  • Majority of farmers are old and not educated;
  • Shortage of labor;
  • Instabilities of price;
  • Stiff competition from low cost producer.

Issue from the midstream activities include:

  • Problems of cleanliness in postharvest processing, packing and storage;
  • Usage of unhygienic material for harvesting and picking cardamom;
  • Lack of primary processing facilities to process harvested berries and which are ready for consumption.

Issue and challenges from downstream activities as below:

  • Limited investment from local cardamom traders;
  • Lack of R&D expertise in cardamom;
  • Lack of R&D infrastructure in land (trial) and laboratories;
  • Low investment in value addition by traditional cardamom traders;
  • Problem of support services, such as shipping, and lack of packaging industries still not competitive;
  • Local traders and exporter are more inclined to remain as commodity trader.

10.0    Potential and strategies

The cardamom industry has the potential to expand in line with several developments such as:

  • The general increase in global demand for cardamom of about 3% to 6% annually recently compared to 5 years ago;
  • The increase in food processing activities;
  • The rapid growth, especially in food processing industries in China, Europe and Middle East which increase demand for cardamom and cardamom products;
  • The growth potential of food and nonfood sectors, especially in health and nutritional products.

Thus, to market cardamom and cardamom products we should consider the following activities:

  • Rationalize our position in the traditional markets;
  • Explore new market and new market segments and niches, namely trade segment, industrial, institutional segment and end-user segments;
  • Conduct selective market promotion;
  • Move away from commodity traders and look more towards end-users;
  • Export more of value-added products;
  • Use quality and product specifications instead of price as the main strategic focus;
  • Develop a more effective market intelligent mechanism;
  • Conduct aggressive internal promotion.

In order to realize the potential of the industry, several strategies need to be carried out from the upstream to the downstream sectors, such as:


  • Increase productivity;
  • Production of quality planting material and specialty varieties;
  • Improve culture practice and farming systems;
  • Research and development to do
  • Improve production system;
  • Biotechnology research to produce disease resistant variety with high quality pods;
  • More product diversification;
  • Develop product toward more market oriented;
  • Aggressive farm level extension.


  • Improve postharvest practice and processing technique
  • Conduct course on GAP
  • Look for cost effective technology to upgrade pepper quality and process e.g. HACCP
  • To work closely with SME and traders association through dialogues, seminar or joint promotion program.


  • To diversify the use of cardamom to include both food and non-food;
  • Value addition;
  • Application of biotechnology in the cardamom industry.


11.0    Cardamom quality

Global demand for cardamom is expected to increase in future, mainly on account of increased culinary application and functional foods. It can lead to increase cardamom trade. Due to the important of the food safety, hygiene, quality control of cardamom specifications, it’s necessary to develop an international harmonized standard.

Table 6: Specification of cardamom in different countries

Country Grade
  1. Intense Green Quality Cardamom
  • Pale Green Quality Cardamom
  • Mix Green Quality Cardamom
  • Mix Yellow Quality Cardamom
  1. AGEB – Alleppey Green Extra Bold
  1. AGB – Alleppey Green Bold
  1. AGS –  Alleppey Green Superior
Sri Lanka
  1. LG – Lanka Green Cardamom
  1. LLG – Lanka Light Green Cardamom

Source: Tridge- Globaltrade Platform, Cardamom global wholesale market prices, 2019.

Certain contaminants in cardamom and cardamom products like pesticide residues when present even in very small quantities can cause health hazards and therefore, undesirable. Even their very presence is considered to be indication of poor quality. Since cardamom constitutes an important raw material for food industry, it’s liable to be checked quality and safety before being consumed by consumer or exported. To meet the increasing demand for the better quality products by consumers and importing countries, there is a need to established the MRLs of pesticide residues in cardamom. Establishing of maximum residue limits for spices was discussed by the CCPR (FAO) at several occasions. In accordance with the decision of the 46th Session of the CCPR, the MRLs of cardamom are attached at Annex 1. Beside, European Spice Association also had established their own MRLs for cardamom. The EU MRLs lists on cardamom are attached in Annex 2.

12.0    Conclusion

The cardamom industry has a vast potential since its demand globally has continuously been increasing, while strategies are drawn to strengthen the competitiveness of the cardamom industry, through widening of product range, improving grade and quality, as well as improving market capabilities. To further increase the competitiveness of cardamom industry in the world market, it must go further downstream and produce high value end-products for the food and non-food sectors. Several investment incentives must be provided by the government to spur the growth of the cardamom industry to greater heights.

Though cardamom contributed marginally to the national economy, its importance to the economy of cardamom producing countries is significant both as a foreign exchange earner and as a provider of employment to thousands of rural poor in the regions. This industry thrives on its smallholding type of farming. Thus, farmers must be constantly guided and informed of the development and issue challenging the industry. Farm level extension is particularly important to educate farmers on the safe uses of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, to improve culture practices and farming systems, in order to increase their productivity.

Annex 1: The FAO MRLs of Cardamom. 

Annex 2: The EU MRLs of Cardamom.

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