Over the past few weeks, the price of pepper (the black variety) in India has risen more than in Europe. A tonne of it costs Rs.393,156 ($7,800, €5,945, £4,964) in Europe and Rs.428,439 ($8,500, €6,479, £5,409) in India.
Observers say poor production is only part of the reason. They allege some “foul play” in futures trading in the commodity. With such high prices here, there is presently no foreign demand for Indian pepper. Growers in Kerala are very reluctant, as a result, to sell whatever they have now. Most of them are keeping their stock for the market to touch Rs.500 ($9.92, €7.56, £6.31) kg. Last year, the question was when the price would touch Rs.300 ($5.95, €4.54, £3.79) kg.
Both Vietnam and Indonesia now offer ASTA grade pepper at Rs.365,434 ($7,250, €5,526, £4,614) a tonne, readily available in Europe at Rs.393,156 ($7,800, €5,945, £4,964). Brazil’s current tag is Rs.357,873 ($7,100, €5,412, £4,518) a tonne and Vietnam offers a comparable variety at a Rs.342,751 ($6,800, €5,183, £4,327) a tonne.
A leading exporter suggests the government should allow duty-free import this year, to aid domestic consumers. According to local traders, even at Rs 400 ($7.94, €6.05, £5.05) kg, pepper is not available in major producing centers like Idukki.
Also, they say, a major chunk from that district is smuggled to Tamil Nadu. There is a high level of hoarding and the Kochi market is devoid of pepper. Growers from Karnataka are also reluctant to sell below Rs 400 ($7.94, €6.05, £5.05) kg.