How Cardamom came as a savior for Planters of Idukki
Idukki as you know if known for its hill cultivations and spices, most of these cultivations were ventured by people who came to Idukki from the districts of Kottayam and Allapuzha. Men ventured into the forests paving way for agriculture. The initial days were very turbulent and harsh, most of them used to stay in tree huts. It was Yam, Tapioca were the initial crops cultivated, mostly required for the survival. Even the government encouraged people to move to the hills as there was limited land in the plains.
As years passed by these lands occupied by the Men were given to them in paper, what we call as “Pattayam” in the local language of Malayalam. Then came up the trend of Sugar cane cultivation, Men used to make Jaggery and other sugar products and took it to the market for sale. Slowly they started replacing the Sugarcane farms to Coffee plantations, as it got more popularity. It pepper next in the line, the hill men found great opportunity in pepper, as pepper was very much an important spice in the international market and had nice price then, they crafted hybrid varieties of pepper. The turmoil that they invited was a partial stagnation of income, because it took at least 6 years for the pepper to start yield and harvest. In the meanwhile everyone ventured into cardamom as it had probably the best price and was very lucrative. Now we have a combination of everything, cardamom, pepper, and coffee. Meanwhile the pepper started yielding, the Indian pepper was acknowledged as a quality product. Money started flowing, the lifestyles changed, children were exposed to better education and education played a major role and many of them left Idukki to other metros like Bangalore and Chennai for Jobs. Today it is the old Generation who still takes care of the crop and a few youngsters like me who are very much to agriculture.
When everything was going pretty fine here, we started to see a yellowish discoloration on Pepper leaves; the initial conclusion was that it was a part of the drastic climatic change that was going on. It took some time for us to identify it as a fungal attack, after which the Government helped us providing with new breed of pepper saplings. But since a lot of time and money was already invested in pepper, all of these incidents took most of the planters to a big financial crunch. The only hope was cardamom, and every one turned to cardamom, the cardamom crop on the other had took just two years to yield the cropped compared to Pepper. And Cardamom had an advantage as it can be harvested four times a year. Finally it was Cardamom that came as a savior for the hill district planters to overcome this disastrous financial situation and so it is considered as blessed crop. Even though at time the cardamom prices went down, it still have retained a minimum price band, which might have reduced the profits, but never went into loss. It was the spices board that was of great support and help for the cardamom planters of the hill district of Idukki.