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Guatemala is the leading supplier of cardamom in the world, producing approximately 23,000 MTs annually. It exports a majority of its production to the Middle East, with small amounts to the EU. Due to its place as a market leader, Guatemalan cardamom production strongly impacts global prices. When the quality and/or quantity of the spice from Guatemala drop, global prices climb.

Guatemalan cultivation is in the open without shade and at higher altitudes where the temperatures are low. Regionally, the Department of Alta Verapaz accounts for approximately 70% of Guatemalan production. Coban in the Alta Verapaz province of Guatemala is the major areas of cardamom production. About 38000 hectares of land is under cardamom cultivation as of 2010. However, as the production is largely unorganised, reliable information is not easily available. Guatemala’s producers harvest year round due to favourable weather conditions, with the main crop being harvested between September and March. As they have negligible domestic consumption almost all of their produce is exported.

Cardamom is Guatemala’s fourth highest exported product after sugar, bananas & coffee. Most producers are indigenous peasants who have small plots on one or two acres which they work with their family and then they sell the cardamom to an intermediary who carries out the drying process and resells it to the exporters. About 70% of the cardamom is grown by small producers with farm holding of less than 4 hectares. Large exporters have their own drying facilities and they buy through their purchase depots where the farmers come and unload their produce.

In regards to trade, five to six companies account for 88% of exports. Therefore, we find that the Guatemala Cardamom trade is in a near cartelisation with most of the purchases of cardamom from the unorganised planters being purchased by large exporters. This situation is very close to an oligopsony.

The distribution channel is very simplistic as below:

Guatemala_1

Guatemalan exports also reflect the seasonality associated with the arrivals of the new crop. Their export shipments rise from October onwards when the bulk of their crop is harvested till about February. From then on shipments slack and are very less in the period between June-September.

Total Guatemalan Cardamom Exports (MTs)

2009 2010 2011 2011 vs 10
January 2,865 2,476 3,384 36.70%
February 3,234 1,636 2,394 46.30%
March 2,284 1,435 2,325 62.00%
April 1,956 1,363 1,168 -14.30%
May 1,480 1,877 1,688 -10.10%
June 1,162 1,294 1,597 23.40%
July 744 1,096 1,249 14.00%
August 160 276 948 243.50%
September 118 321
October 3,148 2,297
November 3,894 4,137
December 2,648 3,960
YTD 13,885 11,453 14,753 28.80%
Full Year 23,693 22,168

Source :The Public Ledger

The Middle East countries are the major importers and account for about 60% while the Indian subcontinent accounts for about 15% of their exports.

Guatemalan YTD Cardamom Export Destinations (MTs)

2009 2010 2011 2011 vs 10
Saudi Arabia 3,660 3,695 4,606 24.70%
United Arab Emirates 2,397 2,202 1,601 -27.30%
Syria 1,076 750 1,482 97.60%
Pakistan 1,231 477 853 78.80%
Bangladesh 601 410 813 98.30%
United States 375 638 652 2.20%
Germany 166 265 644 143.00%
India 525 39 520 1233.30%
Jordan 701 298 482 61.70%
Kuwait 227 351 438 24.80%
Total 13,885 11,453 14,753 28.80%

Source :The Public Ledger