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XII. A Peep Into the Future of Cardamom

XII. A Peep Into the Future of Cardamom

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Cardamom export (t) from India and Guatemala





































Source: India, DGCI & S, Kolkota/shipping bills/exporters returns.

Guatemala: up to 1991–1992 Banco De Guatemala and from 1992

to 1993 estimates based on past trends. D.N.A., data not available.

India and Saudi Arabia are the largest cardamom consumers in the world.

Both the countries put together consume more than 50% of total world

production. As Indians enjoy self‐suYciency in cardamom, import is not

encouraged by the government. Yet, cardamom from Guatemala comes

through the Nepal border into India and is posing a great menace to Indian

production as this import, although clandestine, is price competitive although the cardamom from Guatemala is of lower quality. The government

of India has been unable to check this economic oVence. Table LIX gives a

comparative picture of cardamom consumption by India and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia imports its entire requirement from Guatemala. Other

important importing countries are: Kuwait, Jordan, Quatar, United Arab

Emirates, Japan, Singapore, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark. Saudi

Arabia is world’s highest consumer of cardamom, where it is extensively

used in the preparation of the traditional drink Gawha. This drink is popular

also in Kuwait, Muscat, and Doha. It is reported that Gawha normally

contains 30% cardamom, and the balance is made up of coVee powder.

Often the ratio of cardamom to coVee powder can also vary in the ratio of

60:40 or 50:50. It is the elderly and conservative Arabs in the Middle East

who enjoy the Gawha (Sahadevan, 1965b). Similarly, cardamom tea is also

popular in the Middle East as well as in India (Anon, 1952b). In India,

cardamom is consumed not only in households, but also, in industrial

units and research institutions. A survey conducted by the Spices Board of

India indicates that cardamom finds manifold applications (Anon, 1977a).

The main reason for the choice of cardamom is its cool, refreshing aroma



Table LIX

Cardamom Consumption (t) by India and Saudi Arabia



Saudi ArabiaÃ


































Source: Spices Board of India; UN Statistics: 1990–2000.

Note: Based on import statistics.

with pleasant and sweet taste. The average household consumption of

cardamom in India in both urban and rural areas is about 35 kg yearÀ1.

The household consumption is estimated to grow at a rate of 3.7% per

annum to attain a level 6150 t in the early part of the current century

(George and Johan, 1998). Although the total consumption is less, industrial

units are the bulk consumers of cardamom in India. Their preparations

comprise Pan masala (a betel nut, Areca catachu based chewing mixture

which is very popular in northern India and Pakistan), other Masala

(explained in earlier sections) products, herbal medicines, tobacco products,

biscuits and similar items, and cardamom oil. The demand from the industry

was around 2050 t in 2000 at a growth rate of 15% per annum.

Primarily, the Indian institutions which consume cardamom are, hotels,

restaurants, bakeries, sweetmeat shops, and so on. Demand from this sector

was increasing at the rate of 10% per annum and reached 1250 t in 2000 AD.

A number of measures have been taken in India for widening the demand

base. The Regional Research Laboratory (RRL), Trivandrum, Kerala State,

The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore,

Karnataka State, have taken up studies for developing new cardamom‐based

products. The Indian Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, has conducted

an investigation on the nutritional and medicinal values of cardamom. The

Ayurveda College, Trivandrum, has carried out a study on the use of cardamom to develop Ayurvedic (the ancient Indian system of medicine) medicines

for diVerent common ailments. The Arya Vaidya Sala, the premier research

and medical care institute in Kottakkal, Kerala State, has done pioneering

work on the usefulness of cardamom‐based soaps for good skin care (George

and John, 1998).



The Spices Board of India, which comes under the administrative control

of the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, has been in contact

with manufacturers of various food products to promote cardamom use.

Some manufacturers have begun to use cardamom flavor in their products,

while many have conducted tests to assess the suitability of cardamom oil

as a flavoring agent in their manufactured products. As a result of all

these eVorts, a variety of end products using cardamom flavor have been

launched in the market such as cardamom‐flavored biscuits, toVee, flan,

tea, and coVee powder, and cardamom‐based concentrates (George and

John, 1998).


The future of any commodity depends on the present and potential uses.

Since cardamom is a weak flavorant, it does not have adequate strength to

displace a strong flavorant like vanilla. But, its use as a breath freshener finds

widespread use in India. And it is preferred by many in place of the commercial chewing gum. Although cardamom seed has no chewing gum properties,

because of its mild exciting taste and acceptable smell, the habit of chewing

cardamom is spreading in many parts of India. Promotional eVorts by the

Spices Board of India have also tapped its potential as a substitute to smoking

cigarettes and Beedi (the Indian version of the cigarette where tobacco is

stuVed and rolled into ripened and cured Kendu leaves, a perennial tree

growing in eastern India, whose dried and cured leaves are cut into small

pieces to fill the tobacco leading to the finished product Beedi). In cola drinks,

the aroma of cardamom is highly acceptable and the testing of consumer

preference for cardamom‐flavored cola in many cities in India has been very

positive (Anon, 1996).

Medicinal value of cardamom has not been studied fully in any country. Only

little work has been done in India. Ayurveda mentions the use of cardamom and

has been found eVective as a carminative, body massage oil and also as a

suppressant of cold and cough, but more research needs to be carried out

to understand the full potential of cardamom (Anon, 1952a, Sahadevan, 1965a).


1. Research and Development

The most critical of the R&D eVorts in cardamom production is to widen

and enhance the genetic potential of the existing germplasms. And supportive crop management technology also plays a vital role. Unless a quantum



jump is attained in productivity, Indian cardamom cannot be competitive in

world markets (Anon, 1988). Fertility management of cardamom‐growing soils

is a very important component of this task. As of now, prescriptive soil

management aspects, especially inasmuch as cardamom nutrition is concerned,

revolve around textbook knowledge. Almost the entire approach to fertility

management in cardamom‐growing soils is based on classic textbook knowledge, where empirical fertilizer recommendations generated from microplots

are extrapolated to large‐scale field conditions. These experimental microplots

are nothing but artifacts and many of the recommendations, which emanate

from such studies, when applied to large‐scale plantations, turn out to be quite

oV the mark in reproducing quantifiable results. This often shatters the farmers’

confidence. A significant departure is being made after concerted eVorts of this

author, who has developed an entirely new approach to soil testing and fertilizer management, based on nutrient buVering. The concept is now known,

universally, as ‘‘The Nutrient BuVer Power Concept.’’ A detailed discussion

on the concept and its relevance in cardamom nutrition, especially with regard

to potassium, which is required by cardamom in large quantities for high

productivity, is given in this chapter. In India, in the state of Kerala, where

cardamom is grown to a largest extent, it has been observed that fertilizer input

can be significantly reduced by taking into consideration the buVer power of

the nutrient under question. Experimental results of Nair et al. (1997) show

that as against the routine soil testing and fertilizer recommendations, addition

of K fertilizer, a crucial input in cardamom production, can be substantially

reduced following the buVer power concept (Nair, 2002). There is an urgent

need to extend the concept to other nutrients, possibly phosphorus and nitrogen as well as these are also crucial in cardamom production. Of these, phosphorus is more important in view of the fact that the soils of Kerala State, the

home of cardamom, are lateritic and much of the applied phosphatic fertilizer,

based on routine soil testing is rendered unavailable to the crop. It is in this

context that the buVer power concept holds out much promise in cardamom

farming. However, it must be emphasized that the success of a new approach, to

a great extent, rests with the ingenuity of those applying it to suit the demands

of a new situation. This principle is no exception to making ‘‘The Nutrient

BuVer Power Concept’’ succeed in the case of cardamom production, as has

been the case with other crops, such as black pepper, a perennial crop like

cardamom, maize, rye, whiter clover, and so on (Nair et al., 2002). The fact that

cardamom is a perennial crop makes it all the more important because, unlike

in an annual one, where a midcourse correction can be eVected in the following

season, in a perennial crop like cardamom the fertilizer regime has to be precise

right from the beginning because cardamom grows upwards of 25 years. Unlike

routine soil testing, the new approach calls for an accurate determination of

the buVer power of the nutrient in question at the very start of the fertilizer

regime. Once this is accomplished, the buVer power factor can be incorporated



into the computations with the routine soil test data and accurate fertilizer

recommendations can be made on the basis of this new information. This

implies that, in addition to obtaining routine soil test data, one also needs to

know the buVer power. This author has obtained very encouraging results with

the new concept in cardamom production in the State of Kerala, India, with

regard to K fertilization, which is most crucial to cardamom productivity since

K is the nutrient that the cardamom plant requires in the largest quantity.

Hopefully, the new concept could successfully be extended to other important

plant nutrients as well.

Cardamom being a shade‐loving plant, its production physiology is

diVerent from other Zingiberous plants. And only little is known about

these aspects. Productivity increase can be best achieved by genetic upgradation through new gene combinations and heterosis breeding and subsequent

production of hybrid seeds. Production of genetically homozygous lines for

heterosis breeding is thus an urgent need. Hence, an area of great importance

is the production of haploids and diploids for hybrid seed production. This

step itself can revolutionize cardamom production.

An intensive search is required to locate heat and drought tolerant lines.

Heat and drought susceptibility are the most serious production constraints

facing cardamom production in India. Once this is achieved, the incorporation of such resistance in elite genotypes can be achieved utilizing conventional breeding or the haploid–diploid hybrid system.

Resistance to biotic stress factors especially that of virus diseases is another

equally important aspect that merits great attention by cardamom researchers. Survey of natural disease escapes in hotspot areas, their screening and

evaluation has led to some Katte and rhizome rot resistant lines in the

germplasm collection project of the Indian Institute of Spices Research, at

Kozhikode, Kerala State, under the administrative control of the Indian

Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi. Some of these lines are high

yielding as well. For the production of planting material, which is an important component of cardamom production, presently these lines can be made

use of. At the same time, the agronomically superior lines have to subjected to

molecular‐breeding programs for the production of transgenics incorporating

the Katte virus resistance either through coat protein mediated resistance

or otherwise.

An important area of global importance is the emergence of organic

farming and organically produced crops are in far greater demand than ever

before. The spices form an excellent opportunity in this area and cardamom is

no exception. A substantial quantum of research and developmental eVorts

has to go in to achieve the targets in this area. Another area that may yet

emerge is the production of transgenic cardamom plants capable of surviving

biotic and abiotic stresses. Cutting‐edge technology in the area of cardamom

production along these lines is nonexistent as of now, but future compulsions



would demand such eVorts, although, at this stage, one cannot hazard a guess

what the future holds out.

During the past decade and a half, world production and demand have

increased parallelly, leaving very little as left‐over production from the

previous season. In fact, during this period, both production and demand

enhanced by about 250%. It is also during this period that the cardamom

industry grew manyfold, benefiting all those who are engaged in production,

processing, and marketing. It is hazardous to predict the future of any

nonessential agricultural produce with limited market and cardamom

comes under this category, although, it is the second most prized spice in

the world. However, it appears that cardamom has somewhat a bright

future. But, any substantial increase in production by any cardamom‐

producing country in a short span of time might upset the supply–demand

equation. Such a situation might lead to a steep price fall resulting in

cardamom planters abandoning the crop. A situation almost akin to this

was experienced by Guatemala in 1997–1998, when its production was at its

peak, and the Middle East market for cardamom crashed due to the decline

in oil boom.

In spite of the fact that both aroma and flavor of cardamom are acceptable in the manufacture of many foods, consumption in the developed

world, primarily in the United States, Japan, European Union, Australia

and New Zealand, and so on, is low. At present, the use of cardamom as raw

material for the manufacture of processed foods, as cardamom oil and

oleoresin will be in the range of 1500 t per annum in the developed world.

This is primarily because no agency is making a concerted eVort to boost

cardamom use in these countries. As cardamom is produced in the developing world and the cardamom industry supports many small cardamom

farers, it is desirable to have a concerted public relationship drive in cardamom use. There are a few reputed spice importers’ associations, such as

American Spice Trade Association (ASTA), European Spice Association

(ESA), and All Nippon Spice Association (ANSA), which can be contacted

for promotional purposes. Like in pimento and black pepper, where producers and importers have joined hands, an eVort can also be imitated in the

case of cardamom.

Other than in India, there is but scant cardamom consumption elsewhere.

For sound development of agricultural industry, the best safeguard is the

domestic market, since international markets can fluctuate from competing

countries of production, as has been the case between India and Guatemala.

Promoting cardamom consumption in both traditional and nontraditional

countries of consumption must be initiated. The phenomenon of cheap

Guatemalan cardamom flooding Indian market, both due to the liberalization of the economy, as well as due to clandestine import through the

Nepalese border, has shattered Indian cardamom market. The lesson that



must be learnt from this episode is that unless farmers are enabled to produce

competitively and diversify cardamom use, the future for cardamom will only

be bleak.



Large cardamom is also known as Nepal cardamom (Amomum subulatum

Roxb.) is a spice cultivated in the sub‐Himalayan region of northeastern

India, especially in Sikkim, since time immemorial. In the past, the aboriginal

inhabitants of Sikkim, Lepchas, collected capsules of large cardamom from

the natural forest but later on these forests passed into village ownership and

the villages started cultivation of large cardamom. The presence of wild

species, locally known as churumpa, and the variability within the cultivated

species supports the view of its origin in Sikkim (Subba, 1984). Subsequently,

the cultivation spread to northern Uttar Pradesh, northeastern states of India

(Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Manipur), Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim is

the largest producer of large cardamom and the annual production in India

is about 3500–4000 (t) of cured large cardamom. The average productivity is

100–150 kg haÀ1 but in well‐maintained plantations the productivity can go

up to 1000–2000 kg haÀ1. Nepal and Bhutan are the other two countries

cultivating this crop with an annual production of about 1500 (t). This spice is

used in Ayurvedic medicines in India as mentioned by the great Indian Sage

Medical Practitioner Susruta in the sixth century BC and this was also known

to the Greeks and Romans as Amomum (Ridley, 1912). Large cardamom

contains ca. 1.98–2.67% of volatile oil and is mainly used in flavoring food

products (Gupta et al., 1984). The seeds also possess certain medicinal properties, such as carminative, stomachic, diuretic, cardiac stimulant, antiemetic

and are a remedy for throat and respiratory problems (Singh, 1978). As a

marketable commodity, it is sold mainly in northern India. Over the past few

years, large cardamom is also exported and in 1997–1998 India earned about

US$3 million as export earnings, when the country exported 1784 t. Pakistan,

Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, United Kingdom, and the Middle East

countries are the major importers of large cardamom.


Amomum subulatum is a perennial herb, which belongs to the family

Zingiberaceae under the order Scitaminae. The plant consists of subterranean rhizomes and several leafy aerial shoots and/or tillers. Number of such



rhizhomatous leafy shoots varies between 15 and 140 in a single plant or

clump. Height of leafy shoot ranges from 1.7 to 2.6 m depending on the

cultivar and possesses 9–13 leaves in each tiller. Leaves are distichous, simple,

linear and lanceolate, glabrous on both sides with a prominent mid rib.

Inflorescence is a condensed spike on a short peduncle. Flowers are bracteate,

bisexual, zygomorphic, epigynous, and cuspinated. The yellowish perianth is

diVerentiated into calyx, corolla, and anther crest. Each spike contains about

10–15 fruits (capsules) and rarely up to 20–25 capsules, depending on cultivars. Flowering season begins early at lower altitude with peak flowering

during March–April, whereas it starts at higher altitudes in May with a

peak during June–July. Harvesting begins during August–September at

lower altitudes and in October–December at higher altitudes (Gupta and

John, 1987). The fruit is a round and oval shaped capsule, trilocular with

many seeds. Capsule wall is echinated, reddish brown to dark pink. Seeds

are white when immature and become dark gray to black toward maturity.

The capsules formed at the basal portion of spike are bigger and bolder than

the others (Rao et al., 1993).

Large cardamom is grown in cold and humid conditions under shade

trees at altitudes varying from 800 to 2000 m amsl with an average precipitation of 3000–3500 mm, spread over about 200 days and the temperature

ranging from 6 C in December–January to 30 C in June–July (Singh, 1988).

Frost, hailstorm, and snowfall are the major deleterious factors aVecting

large cardamom. The crop grows well in moist, but well drained loose soil.

The depth of soil varies from a few centimeters to several meters depending

upon the topography and soil formation. Soil is acidic and rich in organic

matter (Mukherji, 1968).


The commercially grown cultivars of large cardamom belong to the species

Amomum subulatum Roxburgh. Out of the total 150 species of Amomum

occurring in the tropics of the world, only about 8 species are considered to

be native of eastern sub‐Himalayan region, namely, Amomum subulatum

Roxb., Amomum costatum Benth., Amomum linguiformae Benth., Amomum

pauciflorum Baker., Amomum corynostachyum Baker., Amomum dealbatum

Roxb. (Amomum sericeum Roxb.), Amomum kingii Roxb., and Amomum aromaticum Roxb. (Hooker, 1886). Later 18 species of Amomum were reported

from the northeastern Himalayan regions (Anon, 1950). In the Indian subcontinent itself, there is another center of diversity in the Western Ghats region

in the southwest India. Gamble (1925) has reported six species from this region.

There are mainly five cultivars of large cardamom, namely, Ramsey,

Sawney, Golsey, Varlangey (Bharlangey), and Bebo (Gyatso et al., 1980).



They are well known. Some other subcultivars of the above ones (Ramnag,

Ramla, Madhusey, Mongney, and so on) are also seen in cultivation in small

areas of Sikkim State in northeastern India. Another cultivar Seremna

or Lepbrakey (a Golsey type) is also getting importance and is spreading to

more areas at lower altitudes (Upadhyaya and Ghosh, 1983).



The name Ramsey was derived from two Bhutia (the language spoken in

Bhutan, the northeastern India) words Ram meaning Mother and Sey

meaning Gold (yellow color). This cultivar is well suited for higher altitudes,

even above 1500 m on steep slopes. Grown up clumps of 8–10 years age

group possess 60–140 tillers. The color of the tillers is maroon or maroonish

green. Second fortnight of May is the peak flowering season. Capsules are

small, average length is around 2.27 cm and 2.5‐cm wide, with 30–35

capsules in a spike, each containing 16–30 seeds. The harvest is during

October–November. Peak bearing capsules are noticed in alternate years,

which is generally referred to as ‘‘Alternate Bearing,’’ a phenomenon common in mango as well. This cultivar is more susceptible to the viral diseases

Foorkey and Chirke especially if planted at lower altitudes. It occupies a

major area under large cardamom in Sikkim and Darjeeling district of the

State of West Bengal. Two strains of this cultivar, namely, Kopringe and

Garadey from Darjeeling district having stripes on leaf sheath, are reported

to be tolerant to chirke virus (Karibasappa et al., 1987).



This cultivar obtained its name from the Nepalese word Sawan which

signifies the month of August by when it is ready for harvest and the cultivar

grows well at low to midaltitudes. It is widely adaptable and can grow at

high altitudes, even as high as 1300–1500 m. It is robust in nature and

consists of 60–90 tillers in each clump. Its tillers are similar in color to that

of Ramsey. Each productive tiller, on average, produces two spikes. Average

length and diameter of a spike is 6 and 11 cm, respectively. Flowers are

longer (6.23 mm) and yellow in color with pink veins. Second half of May is

the peak flowering season (Rao et al., 1993). Capsules are bigger and bold,

and the number of seeds in each capsule are more (35) than in Ramsey.

Harvest begins in September–October and may extend up to November in

high altitude areas. This cultivar is susceptible to both Chirke and Foorkey

viral diseases. Cultivars, such as Red Sawney and Green Sawney, derived their

names from capsule color. Mongney, a strain found in south and west districts



of Sikkim is a nonrobust type with its small round capsules resembling mostly

that of Ramsey.


Golsey (Dzoungu Golsey)

The name is derived from the Hindi (the widely spoken North Indian

language) language and Bhutia, the Bhutan language, with the root Gol

meaning round and Sey meaning Gold (yellow color). It is suitable for low

altitudes, below 1300 m amsl especially in Dzongu area in North Sikkim.

Plants are not robust like other cultivars and have 20–25 straight tillers with

erect leaves. Alternate, prominent veins are extended to the edges of leaves

(Biswas et al., 1986). Unlike Ramsey and Sawney, tillers are green in color.

Each productive tiller on an average produces two spikes. Flowers are bright

yellow. On an average, each spike is 5.3‐cm long and 9.5 cm in diameter and

contains an average of seven capsules. Capsules are big and bold, 2.46‐cm

long and 3.92‐cm wide and contain 60–62 seeds. This cultivar becomes ready

for harvest in August–September. Golsey is tolerant to the two viral diseases

Chirke and Foorkey and also the leaf streak diseases. The cultivar is known

for its consistent performance, although not a heavy yielder. Many local

cultivars are known in diVerent locations such as Ramnag in North Sikkim.

The word Ramnag can be split into its root Ram meaning mother and Nag

meaning black, referring to the dark pink‐colored capsules. Seto‐Golsey is

from west district of Sikkim with robust leafy stems or tillers and green

capsules. Madhusey with elliptic and pink‐colored capsules has robust leafy

stem with sweet seeds compared to other cultivars (Rao et al., 1993).

4. Ramla

The plants are tall and vigorous like Ramsey and have capsule characters

like Dzongu Golsey, tillers are pink colored like Ramsey and Sawney. Cultivation is restricted to a few midaltitude plantations in North Sikkim. The

capsules are dark pink with 25–38 seeds per capsule. Ramla appears to be

natural hybrid between Dzongu Golsey and Ramsey. They are susceptible to

Chirke and Foorkey viral diseases.

5. Varlangey

This cultivar grows in low, medium, and high altitude areas in South

Regu (East Sikkim) and at high altitudes at Gotak (Kalimpong subdivision

in Darjeeling district of the State of West Bengal). Its yield performance is



exceptionally high at higher altitude areas, that is, 1500 m amsl. It is a robust

type and total tillers may range from 60 to 150. Color of tillers resembles

that of Ramsey, that is, maroon to maroonish‐green toward the collar zone.

Girth of the tillers is more than that of Ramsey. Each productive tiller on an

average produces almost three spikes with an average of 20 capsules/spike.

Size of capsules is bigger and bold with 50–65 seeds. Harvest begins in the

last week of October. This cultivar is also susceptible to both the viral

diseases Chirke and Foorkey.



This cultivar is grown in basar area of Arunachal Pradesh. The plant has

unique features of rhizome and tillering. The rhizome rises above the ground

level with roots penetrating deep into the soil, and the young tillers are

covered under thick leafy sheath. It is supposed to be tolerant to Foorkey

viral disease. The spikes have relatively long peduncle (10–15 cm) and the

capsules are bold, red brown, or light brown; seeds contain low level of

essential oil (2% v/w) (Dubey and Singh, 1990).


Seremna (Sharmney or Lepbrakey)

This cultivar is grown in small pocket at Hee‐Gaon in west Sikkim at low

altitude and is known for its high‐yield potential. Plant features are almost

similar to Dzongu Golsey, but the leaves are mostly drooping, hence, the

name Sharmney (the root of the word Sharm in Hindi means modesty in a

female with bowed head). Total tillers range from 30 to 49 and is not robust

in nature. On an average, two to three spikes emerge from each productive

tiller with an average of 10.5 capsules per spike, each having 65–70 seeds.

The comparative morphological characters of the four most important

cultivars, namely, Ramla, Ramsey, Sawney, and Golsey are given in

Tables LX and LXI.


Propagation of large cardamom is done through seeds, rhizomes (sucker

multiplication), and tissue culture techniques. Cultivars suitable for specific

areas, altitudes, agroclimatic conditions, and mother plant/clump of known

performance are selected for collection of seed, rhizome, and vegetative bud.

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XII. A Peep Into the Future of Cardamom

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