Cardamom is an aromatic spice used for flavouring, medicinal or masticator purposes. It also gives strong aromatic volatile oil.
Cardamom grows well in hot and humid climate with 14°C-32°C temperature, 150cm-600cm of rainfall, well-drained rich forest loams or deep red and lateritic soils rich in humus and leaf mould. Its cultivation may be carried on from 800m-1600m of altitude. It is sown in February-March and harvested in August-September. Cardamom is a shade loving plant.
The plant starts yielding fruits after three years. Regular picking of fruits takes place at an interval of 15-30 days. These fruits are sun dried or heated in kilns.
The area under cardamom was 75,000 hectares in 1970-71 giving a total production of 2,700 tones. In 1994-95 the area and production rose to 1, 00,090 hectares and 10,430 tons respectively. The entire production of cardamom is confined to three southern states of Karnataka (area 41.6% and production 56.8%), Kerala (area 53.4% and production 31.8%), and Tamil Nadu (area 5% and production 11.4%).
In Karanataka Kodagu, Hassan, Uttara and Dakshina Kannada districts are the main producers. In Kerala the bulk of production of cardamom comes from Idukki, Palakkad, Kozhikode Kannur, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. In Tamil Nadu the most important producer is Madurai district (about two-third) of state’s output), followed by Salem, Ramanathapuram, the Nilgiris and Tirunelveli districts.
About 50 per cent of the total production of cardamom is exported. India meets most of the world’s demand of cardamom. Main buyers are Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Russia, U K., Germany, Finland, Kuwait, Bahrain and Afghanistan. During 1977- 78 India exported 2,900 tons of cardamom worth of Rs. 49.53 crores.
In 1994-95 the export of cardamom declined to 1,550 tones. Indian cardamom is facing a stiff competition in the international market from Guatemala which has now become the leading exporter.
The Indian Cardamom Research Institute (ICRI), Myladumpara, has recently released two varieties, ICRI-1 and ICRI-2 which can yield 700 kg a hectare in irrigated conditions and 300 kg a hectare in unirrigated conditions (Nandakumar, T., 1992, p. 111).