Himalayan large black cardamom: Geographical indication key to developing value chain in the Kangchenjunga Landscape

   TwitCount

Large black cardamom is a high-value cash crop integral to the livelihoods of farmers in the Eastern Himalayan region, including eastern Nepal, Sikkim and parts of Darjeeling, West Bengal, in India, and southern Bhutan. Because the conditions in Kangchenjunga Landscape are very suited to large black cardamom production, farmers in this region can market this niche crop to demand high prices in local and international markets. Yet, this potential is largely unfulfilled, with large black cardamom farmers facing numerous challenges to sustain production, primarily from pests and disease, climate change impacts, fluctuating market prices, and lack of transboundary learning and cooperation. 

Against this backdrop, a two-day regional workshop on “Exploring opportunities for transboundary collaboration on large black cardamom value chain in the Kangchenjunga Landscape” was organized by ICIMOD together with its partners on 22–23 May 2019 in Phungling, Taplejung, Nepal. Discussions were centred on large black cardamom’s low penetration in global markets, despite its unique characteristics and tremendous potential as a niche mountain product. 


More than 30 participants – including high-level government representatives from Bhutan, India, and Nepal, along with local entrepreneurs, scientists, and farmers – attended the workshop to discuss opportunities for large black cardamom in the Kangchenjunga Landscape. (Photo: Nakul Chettri/ICIMOD)

More than 30 participants attended the workshop, including high-level representatives from the Department of Agriculture (Bhutan); the Department of Agriculture and the G B Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development (Sikkim, India); and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Department of Agriculture, and National Centre for Potato, Vegetable and Spice Crops Development (Nepal). Entrepreneurs, scientists, farmers, and local government representatives (including the mayor and deputy mayor of Phungling Municipality) were also present. 

During the workshop, Kinlay Tshering, Director of the Department of Agriculture, Bhutan, emphasized the need to capitalize on the unmet demand for large black cardamom and shared Bhutan’s willingness to collaborate with and learn from India and Nepal in conducting research and development activities towards this push. Bhimlal Dahal, Additional Director of the Government of Sikkim, India, underlined the importance of large black cardamom as a high-value cash crop to farmers in Sikkim. He also emphasized the need to add value to the product and improve crop yield through better agricultural and management practices. Surya Prasad Paudel, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Nepal, highlighted the need for regional cooperation for exchange of technology and knowledge to improve yield and bargain for better market prices and access. Hari Bahadur KC, Chief of the National Center for Potato, Vegetable and Spice Crops Development, Nepal, spoke about the increasing demand of large black cardamom as organic spices and ayurvedic medicine globally and presented Nepal’s  strategy to develop large black cardamom as a sector.

As part of the workshop, a half-day field visit was organized to a local village where ICIMOD through its Himalica Initiative implemented a pilot project for reducing risks and building resilience. This facilitated cross learning by allowing the participants to observe large black cardamom farm management practices and interact with local communities and entrepreneurs engaged in making value-added blended products from large black cardamom. The participants learnt about challenges with the spread of diseases and the lack of information on genetic characterization and limited varietal options due to restrictions on cross-border germplasm exchange. The field visit therefore helped the participants understand the difficulties in producing and marketing large black cardamom across the Kangchenjunga Landscape. 


Discussions during the workshop identified product positioning of large black cardamom as a key strategy for improving the product’s demand. (Photo: Basant Pant/ICIMOD)

The second day of the workshop centered on reflection, group discussions, and brainstorming to identify and prioritize challenges and suggest strategies and recommendations for regional collaboration. Some of the key recommendations included improving yield and reducing risks of production volatility of large black cardamom in the Kangchenjunga Landscape, adding value and achieving economy of scale, and marketing and product positioning. The participants were able to reach a consensus on developing a “Geographic Indication” (GI) to better position large black cardamom as a niche mountain product – by branding it as ”Himalayan large black cardamom”. The use of a GI will help distinguish green, white, and other types of cardamoms grown elsewhere from the one produced in the Kangchenjunga Landscape.  

Representatives from all the three Eastern Himalayan countries expressed their interest in attending platforms for cross learning and jointly addressing some of the key recommendations developed from the presentations and group works during the workshop. ICIMOD is also committed to exploring resources and facilitating regional collaboration for addressing issues and harnessing opportunities in large black cardamom production and trade. In sum, the workshop facilitated the exchange of experiences and knowledge among stakeholders from the region and also charted a common path towards the fulfilment of the large black cardamom potential in the region.