Kodaikanal hills coffee growers shifting to cardamom

According to TVSN Veera Arasu, coffee growers of Pattiveeranpatti, nowadays have become cardamom growers and are relying on new varieties like ‘Njallani’ and ‘Green Gold.’
A lush cardamom farm in Thandikudi near Kodaikanal.
A lush cardamom farm in Thandikudi near Kodaikanal.

MADURAI: Cardamom cultivation is gaining ground in parts of Thandikudi and other areas of lower Kodaikanal hills in Dindigul district after several farmers have switched over to the crop from coffee cultivation.

The main cash crop of Thandikudi was coffee, but the decline in price of coffee beans has prompted many coffee growers to shift their crops to cardamom, the queen of spices,PRM Ravichandran, a coffee grower in Thandikudi said.

Apart from traditional native farmers, a new wave of farmers from the neighboring state of Kerala has come up to the lower hills of Kodaikanal and started growing cardamom on lease lands.

After a series of natural calamities in Kerala over the last two or three years, some of the cardamom farmers tried their luck in Thandikudi, KC Patti, Adalur, Pandrimalai, Pachalur, Kuppammalpatti and Periyur and once the cultivation proved successful with weather playing a key role, many from Kerala followed suit.

However, the coffee cultivation area did not shrink much as around 5,000 acres of wastelands were covered to raise cardamom.

Moreover, the Coffee Board is extending its support to expand plantation and also for re-planting.

Next to coffee, Thandikudi was also known for cardamom as the government motivated cardamom growers by leasing out its lands 20 years ago. But, when cardamom became vulnerable to pests and diseases, many gave up cultivation and the government took over the lands. In those days, Thandikudi founded ‘Veerapathiran,’ a variety of green cardamom and a ‘cardamom research station’ existed earlier at Thadiyankudisai, he told DT Next on Sunday.

According to TVSN Veera Arasu, coffee growers of Pattiveeranpatti, nowadays have become cardamom growers and are relying on new varieties like ‘Njallani’ and ‘Green Gold.’

Conducive weather conditions here suit the cardamom growers, who expect about 80-120 days of rain with annual requirement of about 60 to 80 inches. Now, even shade trees are not required much for these new varieties of cardamom, he said.

SM Kathiresan, another farmer engaged in coffee planting from Thandikudi, said coffee plantation becomes labour intensive and despite incurring high costs on labour, milling and processing, coffee farmers could not get a satisfactory price. Considering these factors, many coffee growers switched to cardamom as an alternative crop.

As for D Manickavel, a coffee farmer from Pattiveeranpatti, a kilo of coffee beans fetched about Rs 320 last year, but it has come down to Rs 270 this year. On the other hand, a kilo of green cardamom is priced ranging from Rs 900 to Rs 1,200. More importantly, he said “coffee cultivation consumes a long period of about five years for crop yield, but cardamom growers need not wait for such a long period, as they could witness crop yield in a short period of 18-month time.”

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