By Nayan Dave
An over 40% shortfall in the cumin crop in Rajasthan and Gujarat, coupled with an exceptionally high export demand, has inflated prices of the commodity to Rs 4,500 per 20 kg. Traders and exporters in the Asia’s biggest seeds spices hub Unjha said that on Thursday cumin spot prices hovered in the range of Rs 3,900 to Rs 4,500 per 20 kg depending on the quality of cumin.
After cleaning, sorting and packaging, cumin is being sold in the retail market at prices ranging from Rs 275 per kg to over Rs 300 per kg (Rs 5,500 to Rs 6,000 per 20 kg), says Arvind Patel, a cumin trader in Unjha.
On the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX), May Jeera futures touched a high of Rs 21,765 per quintal on Thursday. Spot Jeera prices in Unjha mandi on NCDEX Jodhpur stood at Rs 21,701.70 per quintal (Rs 4,340 per 20 kg). At Jodhpur mandi, it was at Rs 22,500 per quintal. Patel, who is also vice-chairman of Unjha Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), went on to say that if the upcoming monsoon season was weak, prices of cumin will further zoom beyond Rs 6,000 in the second half of the current calendar year.
“Prices of cumin remained in the range of Rs 2,400 to Rs 2,700 per 20 kg in the previous season. Cumin production in Rajasthan and Gujarat remained nearly 90 lakh bags (55 kg per bag). This year we are expecting cumin production of hardly around 55 lakh bags in the country,” says Patel.
Sowing of cumin happens during October to December and harvest begins from February till April end. Jodhpur and Nagaur districts in Rajasthan are the major pockets of cumin farming. In Gujarat, cumin is being sown in Banaskantha, Kutch and Saurashtra regions. Farmers and traders from both the states ultimately come to Unjha to sell their crop. Of the total arrival of cumin at Unjha, nearly 60% comes from Rajasthan and remaining 40% from different parts of Gujarat.
For the 2021-22 season, cumin sowing in Gujarat was restricted to little over 3 lakh hectares compared to previous year’s 4.70 lakh hectares. Same is the case with neighbouring Rajasthan, which registered a 20% reduction in acreage. As cumin crop is highly sensitive to weather and disease, farmers in Rajasthan and Gujarat switched to other crops in demand, including cotton, mustard seed, groundnut, soyabean and coriander seed, this season, Dinesh Patel, chairman of Unjha APMC, said. He added: “Apart from this, extended monsoon and unseasonal rain in March this year also affected cumin harvest adversely. Also, heatwaves in cumin growing areas played spoilsport for farmers. Luckily, there is encouraging demand for exports, which is giving good rates to farmers for their cumin crop.”
Cumin is in great demand in West Asia, Southeast Asia, America and European markets, says Bhanubhai Joshi, a cumin exporter. The spice commodity is exported to nearly 40 countries across the globe from Unjha. Maximum exports are being done in the Gulf countries followed by the US, Europe, China and Latin American countries. India enjoys an over 75% share in the international market for cumin. Apart from India, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey produce and export cumin. However, the quality of Indian cumin is far more superior than any other nation in the world.
Seeds spice expert Jayvadan Gandhi says that in recent years cumin exporters faced issues of rejection on the basis of higher pesticide content, especially from Chinese buyers. Even European and the US importers are also insisting on organically grown spices, says Gandhi. Considering the current picture, traders in Unjha believe that there would be zero carry forward stock for next season.
This year, the market witnessed nearly 15 lakh bags of previous year’s carry forward stock. Nearly 75% of the crop has already arrived at Unjha market yard, Patel said, adding that still 25% of the crop is either in warehouses or with farmers. Some of the farmers are expecting a further rise in the prices of cumin and hence, they are currently holding it, he added.
The visit was sponsored by the NCDEX