Cardamom plants take about 3-4 years to bear fruit and are commercially productive for 4-6 years before yields decline. The pods, which grow spaced along the panicle contain brown or black seeds, and are so tiny that it takes four pods to fill a quarter-teaspoon, making it one the world’s most expensive spices.
Global production of small & large cardamom was approximately 70,000 MTs in 2006. Guatemala & India accounted for 45% & 21% of total protection respectively. Guatemala only produces Green Cardamom whereas India produces both the smaller Green and the larger Brown Cardamom types. Guatemala & India have dominated cardamom production but since 2003 Indonesia has emerged as an additional producer mainly in the Large Cardamom domain. With respect to Large Cardamom production, Indonesia was the top producer accounting for 45% of production, with Nepal (23%), India (15%) and China (14%) accounting for most of the remainder.
The Middle-East, South Asia, South East Asia and Europe are the other main markets for Green Cardamom. Global demand for cardamom rose steadily from 31,448-37,712 tons from 2006-2008. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, imports dramatically dropped to 25,566 MTs but rebounded slightly to 26,946 MTs in 2009.
Worldwide imports of Green Cardamom are estimated at about $320 million. At its highest exports in the year 2011, India accounted for about US$76 million. This reflects about 23% market share which is the highest market share achieved by India in recent times.
The estimated production of Green Cardamom averages 35,000-38,000 tons p.a. Unlike India, reliable production estimates of Guatemala are not easily available. However, trader estimates are that Guatemala’s production is between 22,000 and 25,000 tons p.a.
Scientific approach to cultivation resulting in a steady increase in productivity and stability offered by a vibrant domestic market are the main advantages for the Indian cardamom industry.
The Guatemala cardamom industry follows shifting cultivation and the acreage under Cardamom cultivation varies. Further, absence of a domestic industry makes them open to global price fluctuations in which India is well protected.