|Vandanmedu, about 25 km from Kumily, is one of the world’s largest cardamom auction centres. Of the 20 cardamom auction centres in the world, 12 are in the Cardamom Hills in Periyar Valley.
If you would like to witness a cardamom auction at Vandanmedu, an interesting experience, you will need prior permission from the concerned authorities. The various centres schedule different days of the week for their auctions. Traders from mainly Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bodinayakkannur in Tamil Nadu take part in the auction. Small growers dispatch their produce for selling to depots located in various places. At these depots, the cardamom will be segregated according to their variety and will then be taken to collection centres two days before the auction.
Lot numbers are provided to the sellers. The quantity, weight and the date of auction is mentioned in the crop slip provided to them. The lot number is displayed on the packets in which samples are kept. These sample packets reach the centres the night before the auction and are then put on display on the display board. This makes it possible for prospective buyers to inspect samples before the auction.
The auction starts with the ringing of a bell. Tables and chairs are arranged in a U shape and the bidders sit behind the tables, calling out prices. The auctioneers put the cardamom samples in the plates kept before the bidders. While the numbers are called out, the bidder, after a quick assessment of the sample, starts bidding. Calls and counter calls on the same sample follow and in no time the atmosphere becomes very lively. During the auction, the sellers merely watch the proceedings.
E-auction for cardamom
E-auction was introduced by the Spices Board of India in Vandanmedu recently. It ensures better accountability and transparency in the trade.
First introduced in Bodinayakkannur in Tamil Nadu and then in Vandanmedu, it is beneficial both to cardamom growers and the traders. It helps to avoid the manipulation likely to happen in open trading, where prospective bidders, with prior arrangement amongst themselves, can keep the prices low. In e-auction, each bidder is unaware of the prices quoted by the rival bidder, thus ensuring healthy competition and fair price for the produce.
The auctioneers collect the cardamom directly from the growers and the samples are shown to the bidders before the auction. Each bidder gets eight seconds to quote the price.
There are around seven licensed auctioneers who conduct auctions on different days of the week. While the Kerala Cardamom Processing Marketing Centre holds its weekly auctions on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Mass Enterpirses Ltd holds it on Fridays. The Cardamom Planters’ Association has fixed the auctioning day as Monday. For Hedder Systems Pvt Ltd, it is Tuesday; for the Cardamom Processing and Marketing Co-Operative Society (CPMCS), Wednesday; and for the Spices Trading Corporation Ltd (STCL), Thursday. Another auctioneer, the Idukki Small Cardamom Marketing and Processing Society (ISCMPS), conducts its auctions on Sunday.
Records indicate that, in Vandenmedu, the average volume of cardamom traded per week is 300 tonnes. It increases to 600 tonnes in the peak season when the climactic conditions are ideal for the spice.