India is ‘The Land of Spices’, and the glorious history of Indian spice is known all through the world. India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of spices and still plays a vital role in the world spice trade market.
The demand for spices was one of the key factors in expanding world trade. Fortunes were made, battles fought, and countries conquered for the sake of these plants.
The desire to control spice sources took the British to India, the Portuguese to Brazil, the Spanish to Central and South America and the Philippines, the French to Africa, and the Dutch to Indonesia. Even today, we depend on spices and herbs for many of our newest medicines, chemicals and flavours, and they are also used in cosmetics and perfumery.
The journey of Indian Spices
India has been known from prehistoric times as the land of spices. This lead to the landing of the Portuguese navigator, Vasco da Gamma at Calicut in 1498 and earlier, Christopher Columbus landing in West Indies in 1492, that lead to the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans. Until about thel970’s, India had a virtual dominance in the international trade of spices.
Each state of India has been bestowed with some spice and are being cultivated by millions of small and marginal farmers. The USA, EU, China, Singapore’s Lanka Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Israel are the main markets for Indian spices. North America (USA and Canada) and Western Europe are the most critical regions having the import demand for many of the spices. Indian spices flavour foods in over 130 countries and their intrinsic values make them distinctly superior in terms of taste, colour and fragrance.
Indian Spice Exportation
The Indian spice export basket consists of around 50 spices in the whole form and more than 80 products. However, a few spices constitute a significant segment of the country’s total export earnings. The significant spices exported are pepper, chilli, mint, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, ginger. The principal exports are spice oils and oleoresins, curry powders and mixers and speciality extracts and blends.
Given that India is the largest consumer of spices in the world, domestic market plays a vital role in its spices exports. Some consider spices export as a residual activity, i.e., as a means to dispose of excess domestic production over domestic consumption.
The export shares of various spice items as a proportion of production are: pepper (50 %), chilli (16 %), Cumin (13 %), fenugreek (10 %), fennel (7 %), cardamom
(6.5 %), turmeric (5 %), ginger (1 %), coriander (1%).
With the rapid growth in population and rising standards of living, Indian domestic demand for spices is also increasing, and the future of spices exports
depend critically on enhancing productivity levels of spices.
Indian Spice board
The Spice Board, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India is promoting the exports of Indian spices. The Board has been playing an essential role as a developmental, regulatory and promotional agency for Indian spices. Its broad-based activities include formulation and implementation of quality improvement systems, research and development programmes, imparting of education and training to farmers, processors, packers and exporters on post-harvest handling, brand promotion etc
In India, food safety and hygiene have never been a priority for exporters. Spice exports demand a change in the attitude of traders and transformation in the trading system itself. Ideally, spice intermediaries and exporters should have access to capital technology and market information. Corporate and large traders have to establish backward linkages with the primary producers. It is urgently required to formulate a long term view of quality-related issues, including investment in rural infrastructure and education of farmers.
The health technologies like fluxidised extraction; using hydrofluorocarbon supercritical extraction technologies, pasteurization, gas fumigation using ethylene oxide, gamma radiation, coextrusion heat treatment, heat treatment un-modified product etc. are only marginally employed at present. The introduction of safer products should be done without sacrificing the objectives of efficiency and competitiveness.