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INTERVIEW

“Export-friendly policies required so that India becomes processing hub”
Monday, 24 October, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
World Spice Organisation (WSO) is a common platform for all stakeholders in the spice sector. It ensures food safety and sustainability of spices. Among other things, it conducts awareness and training programmes for farmers, FPOs and other stakeholders in the supply chain. Ramkumar Menon, chairman, WSO, in an email interview with Manjushree Naik talks about how the organisation is a common platform for all stakeholders, how India can become a processing hub and more. Excerpts:

WSO is a common platform for the spice industry in India. Elaborate.
Under Its National Sustainable Spice Programme (NSSP), WSO has created a platform for all stakeholders in the spice sector - farmers, processors, traders and retailers in the domestic market, exporters, government agencies involved in spices and research institutions as well as international organisations like IDH - The Sustainable Trade Initiative, GIZ, Rainforest Alliance to participate and achieve the objectives of the industry. WSO has a panel of experts drawn from the scientific and technical community whose services are utilised based on project requirements.

What are the objectives of the WSO? Who are the members?
The objectives of WSO are to ensure food safety and sustainability of spices. Its members range from farmer groups, traders, retailers, exporters as well as spice associations. WSO also has some overseas spice companies as members.

How closely is the body working with the world spices bodies and Indian Spices Board?    
WSO works closely with international spice bodies like the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA), European Spice Association (ESA), International Trade Centre, Geneva, Coalition for CODEX Reforms and so on. It has a close working relationship with the Indian Spices Board and the two organisations collaborate with each other on a number of projects, the main one being the National Sustainable Spice Programme (NSSP) wherein we conduct awareness and training programmes for farmers, FPOs       and other stakeholders in the supply chain about quality standards and market requirements.

Tell us about the work of Codex' CCSCH.
The Codex Committee for Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) was established in 2013 with India as the host. The Spices Board holds the secretariat of the CCSCH, it was noticed that there was a lack of harmonisation in international standards which was proving to be a hindrance to fair trade practices. The scope of work of the CCSCH is to develop quality standards for spices. Formulations of spices and culinary herbs covering physical and chemical parameters. Till date about 12 standards including pepper, cumin, thyme and ginger have been developed. Other spice standards are being taken up for evaluation and acceptance.

How big is the global spices industry and what is India's share in it? At what rate is it growing?
The global spices industry is estimated to be around US$14 billion and India's share in this is over US $4 billion -- approximately 30% of the total trade. Growth rate has been estimated to be between 4 and 5% per annum. However, with usage of spice increasing in other sectors like nutraceuticals and pharma besides food spices could grow even further in the coming years.

India is the world's spices capital. Elaborate.
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices in the world. Over 40% of the world trade in terms of volume and 30% in terms of value is catered to by our country. The domestic spice market is estimated to be around Rs 80,000 crore and growing at 7% or so annually. The export market is valued at Rs 30,000 crore. India's gene bank for spices and the large pool of scientists working in the spice industry along with the expertise of our farmers, processors and exporters has given it a premier position in the world. It is therefore rightfully called The World's Spice Capital.

What more can be done with regard to the FSS Regulations on Spices?  
FSSAI has over the past few years laid down strict food safety regulations for spices and this process is ongoing. While this is a welcome step the lacuna is that their mandate commences only after the produce or product leaves the farm. The other stakeholders in the supply chain like processors and retailers are responsible and liable for any contaminants that may be present in the raw material over which they may have not any control. It is therefore crucial that farmers as well as other partners in the supply chain are given proper education and training to ensure that only good practices are followed at the farm and all other stages of the supply chain. WSO is doing this and providing training in good agricultural practices and creating awareness of the quality norms and requirements of the market this should be supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and FSSAI.

What are your future plans for the growth off the spices industry in the world?
Usage of spices is increasing the world over not only as an ingredient in food but in the wellness and health sector. The Covid-19 pandemic made the world realise the potential of spices as an immunity booster and as an important supplement to many formulations. The future plan of the WSO is to promote innovations and product development of value added spices by making industry aware of the potential of spices through conferences, workshops and seminars. The recent National Spice                      Conference held in Mumbai was one such effort.   

What more can be done to improve India's spices exports?
A large part of India's spice exports is in the whole form and it is therefore imperative that if we want to improve our exports, systematic efforts should be made to increase the value-added component drastically. For this industry and government should work together to enable this to happen. Export-friendly policies are required so that India can be showcased and become a processing hub and a reliable supplier of value-added spices and herbs to the world. Information on new technologies and innovations that could be useful at every stage of the supply chain should be made available to the industry. WSO and the All India Spices Exporters Forum have taken up this work and are trying to convey this to the trade through conferences and regular meetings.
 
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