'Drastically increased price': Damaged crop drives cardamom and poppy seed price spike

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Achiam Photography)
(Image: Getty/Achiam Photography)

Related tags Ehl ingredients Shortage

EHL Ingredients says it is working hard to fulfil orders for UK customers after adverse weather in India and the Czech Republic damaged cardamom and poppy seed crops.

Cardamom is commonly used to flavour Indian and Middle Eastern curries, stews, rice dishes, as well as biscuits, cakes, desserts, and chocolate bars. Its strong, aromatic fragrance also makes it an attractive ingredient in the beverage industry, where the spice can be found in certain gins, aromatic bitters and botanical drinks, and in spiced chai beverages.

However, according to UK ingredients supplier EHL, high temperatures followed by seasonal rain in India’s southern province of Kerala has affected cardamom crops. The shortage has inflated the cost of cardamom from this region to an eight-year high, EHL joint managing director Tasneem Alonzo told FoodNavigator.  

Cardamom pods (Getty/mantosh)

“We are experiencing the shortage ourselves and are working hard to fulfil orders for our UK customers, although price fluctuations do mean that prices have increased by around 30%,” ​said Alonzo.

“We’re awaiting the next harvest of the crop in February and are optimistic that prices will stabilise.” 

Although native to India, cardamom is also heavily cultivated for export in Guatemala – where crops are similarly down on last year, we were told. “…so overall stocks are low while demand remains high, which has pushed up prices in the UK,” ​said Alonzo.

Poppy seed shortage predicted until late 2019

Poppy seed, which is produced in vast quantities in the Czech Republic, was also affected by adverse weather throughout the vegetative season.

Most commonly used in the baking and confectionary sectors, the seed is commonly used to garnish breads, rolls, savoury biscuits, crackers, and sweet baked goods. Poppy seed also features in Eastern European food, Jewish baked goods, and Indian cuisine.

“Along with other regions of Central Europe, Czech farmers experienced a very cold start to the spring, which was eventually followed by soaring temperatures and a lack of rain between May and August,” ​explained Alonzo.

Poppy seeds are often used as toppings on bread products (Getty/Sedaeva)

As a result, Czech poppy seed prices have “drastically increased in price”​ – up by almost one third compared to the same period last year, he continued.

“The current crop is substantially lower compared to [a] five and ten year production average and could be a concern for the food industry.

“Availability will remain tight until the last quarter of 2019.”

Is pain relief a factor?

The medical industry may also have a role to play in the shortage, suggested EHL. The majority of poppy seeds used for food come from the opium poppy, which also contains the active ingredient morphine – commonly used for pain relief.

“The reason for the shortage is down to large stocks of morphine for the medical industry.

“As poppy seeds are associated with morphine production, farmers have not planted as much crop leading to no crop carry over and stocks being exhausted,” ​we were told.

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