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How to Start Commercial Cardamom (Elaichi) Farming Business

Cardamom is commonly known as the “Queen of spices”. And commercial cardamom farming is a profitable business even for small landowners. Cardamom is one of the most highly-priced and exotic spices in the world. Generally, there are two types of cardamom you can find. One is small cardamom and the other is large cardamom. Here in this post, we put a detailed guide for starting a small-scale cardamom farming business with planting, care, harvesting, and much more.

The botanical name of the small cardamom is Elettaria cardamomum Maton. And it belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. Some of the major cardamom-growing countries are India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Nepal, and Bhutan.  Kerala (70%), Karnataka (20%), and Tamil Nadu (10%) are the major cardamom-producing states in India.

Is Cardamom Farming Profitable?

Cardamom is a premium spice globally. There are several food processing industries where cardamom is an essential flavoring ingredient. The commercial part of cardamom is the fruit (capsule) of the plant. It is considered to be a versatile spice, as it is used in both sweet and salty foods.

Additionally, the spice has great export potential. Indian cardamom enjoys a premium preference in the Middle East, Japan, and Russia relish it for its distinct enriching properties. Saudi Arabia is the largest market for Indian cardamom with a share of around 60% followed by Kuwait, UAE, and the USA.

Apart from the seeds, there is another application of cardamom. And that is cardamom oil. Oil is an essential item in processed foods, tonics, liquors, and perfumes. The fruit also finds significant usage in Ayurvedic medicines for dental infections, digestive disorders, etc. Cardamom is one of the most popular cash crops worldwide.

Health Benefits of Cardamom

  • Cardamom helps the body eliminate waste through the kidneys.
  • The spice relieves acidity.
  • additionally, it is useful for curing dental diseases and urinary tract infections.
  • Cardamom is rich in various vitamins and micronutrients.
  • Furthermore, cardamom contains antimicrobial properties.

Things To Consider in Commercial Cardamom Farming

  • Cardamom cultivation demands specific agroclimatic conditions. So, check this before you plan on growing cardamom.
  • In addition, select the right variety carefully. According to the demand and your marketing policy, you must choose the right variety.
  • Commercial cardamom production demands long-term planning. generally, cardamom comes to bearing 2-3 years after planting. So you have to prepare for the mid-time capital investment.
  • Generally, there are some price-influencing factors in cardamom trading. These are freshness, color, aroma, and size. So you must be careful in those aspects.

Best Varieties for Cardamom Farming

Commercially cultivated varieties of small cardamom are Mudigere 1, PV 1, CCS 1, and SKP 14 (for Karnataka) and ICRI 1 and ICRI 2 for Kerala and Tamil Nadu. However, there are other varieties that are recognized by the Indian Spice Board. These are Malabar with a prostrate panicle, Mysore with an erect panicle, and Vazhukka with a semi-erect panicle.

Agroclimatic Condition for Cardamom Farming

Cardamom grows in areas receiving an annual rainfall of 150-400 cm. Additionally, the herb prefers a temperature of 10 – 35 QC and an altitude of 600-1500 m above mean sea level is ideal. However, you can grow cardamom under greenhouse conditions.

Suitable Soil for Cardamom Farming

Cardamom prefers forest loamy soils. Usually, acidic and a PH balance of 5.0 – 6.5 is perfect for this plant. However, you can grow cardamom in evergreen forests with organic matter enriched by the surface soil. In addition, soils rich in N and low to medium P and K are ideal. However, you have to arrange a good drainage facility.

Read: Is Soil Testing Important In Agriculture?

Commercial Cardamom Farming Basic Steps

1. Propagation

You can grow cardamom both through seeds and vegetatively. The vegetative method is better for large-scale production. However, for small-scale farming, you can grow from seeds. In this case, you can raise seedlings in the nursery beds. And those become ready for plantation after 8 to 10 months.

2. Cultivation

You can transplant the seedlings in the rainy season. Generally, cloudy days with light drizzles are ideal for planting. You must avoid deep planting. Because it results in the suppression of growth and causes the death of plants due to the decaying of underground rhizomes. Cardamom requires a steady supply of moisture and will not tolerate drought.  Cardamom is not tolerant of cold. However, you must keep the plants in a location with many hours of partially occluded sunlight.

3. Manuring

Generally, cardamom responds very well to organic and inorganic fertilizers. According to the fertility of the soil, you can apply NPK. Additionally, you can apply neem oil cake. It is advisable to craft the fertilization schedule according to the deficiency factors of nutrients in the soil.

4. Irrigation

Frequent irrigation at 10–15 days intervals is necessary during the summer months. Regular irrigation (25mm–37.5mm/irrigation) helps in the initiation of panicles, flowering, and fruit sets. However, you must maintain the soil moisture level always above 45–50%. You may also go for drip irrigation.

5. Plant Protection

You must take preventive measures against disease and pest attacks. However, some of the potentially harmful diseases are  Nursery leaf spots, Nursery leaf rot, Damping off or seedling rot, and Clump rot (Rhizome rot).

Some of the harmful pests and insect attacks are  Rhizome weevil (Prodioctes Haematicus), Shoot fly (Formosina Flavipes), Shoot borer, Root grubs (Basilepta Fulvicorne), Spotted red spider mite, Cutworm (Acrilasisa Plagiata), and Plant-parasitic nematodes.

6. Harvesting & Yield

Cardamom plants start bearing fruits in the 2nd or 3rd year of the plantation. The fruits mature at 30–40 days intervals. Harvesting starts from August to September and continues from February to March.

When fruits are in the ripping stage, you can start harvesting. You can expect an average yield of 500 kg/ha of dry capsules. The post-harvest operation consists of washing, pre-treatment with chemicals, curing, cleaning, grading, and packing.

Commercial cardamom farming is a financially profitable business. However, It demands patience and strategic planning to get long-term success from the farm.