India's cardamom district, Idukki, is reeling under severe drought conditions, leaving farmers in the lurch.
The drought conditions prevailing in cardamom growing areas in Kerala said to have dried up plants in an estimated 15,000 hectares.
According to farmers in the district, the plantations having irrigation facilities have also been hit now as the water resources have dried up.The impact of high temperature on the plants, which were receiving irrigation till a few days ago is serious, Sabu Mathew, a cardamom farmer in Idukki district said.
He said 50 per cent of the total plantations were under irrigation and for the past 25 days, it could not be irrigated for want of water.
Most of the plants in the several cardamom plantations have dried up. The plants cannot withstand prolonged dry spells.
Idukki district used to get at least one shower every month during summer. But, from November there hasn't been any rain so far, said a Nedumkandam-based farmer, Jose K.
The current situation would result in an estimated drop of 25-30 per cent in output from that of last season estimated around 9,765 tonnes.
The picking has already come to an end as is evident from the decline in arrivals at the auctions. The total output during the current season might come to around 7,000 tonnes. Besides, the impact would be reflected on the crop next season also.
The next crop would not only be late but also lower. Around 85 per cent of the national production of cardamom is from Kerala.
The decline in output this season has pushed up the prices to moderate levels. But the dry spell has reduced the yield affecting the total income of the growers.
Moreover, inputs cost had gone up by 10-15 per cent. The total loss inflicted by the drought would come to around Rs 200 crore.
Replanting of the damaged plants would entail fresh investments. On the other hand, improved variety planting materials were also not available.
The total area under cardamom in the country was 73,237 hectares in 2003-04of which 55,221 ha was yielding. Kerala had 41,332 ha followed by Karnataka (26,838 ha) and Tamil Nadu (5,067 ha).