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India’s leadership in world spices sector
Thursday, 13 October, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ganesh Gaikwad, Dr R.B Kshirsagar & Dr B M Patil
India, known as the home of spices, boasts a long history of trading with the ancient civilisations of Rome and China. Today, Indian spices are the most sought after globally, given their exquisite aroma, texture, taste and medicinal value. India has the largest domestic market for spices in the world. Traditionally, spices in India have been grown in small land holdings, with organic farming gaining prominence in recent times. India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices; the country produces about 75 of the 109 varieties listed by the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) and accounts for half of the global trading in spices.

India is the world’s leading producer and exporter of spices. The spice industry has played a significant role in the last seven decades. Spice growing, processing, manufacturing, grading, marketing, and other associated industries have long been a key source of income for people in India. Due to their incomparable aroma, flavour, and medicinal potential, Indian spices have been popular globally. The lure of spices led Vasco Da Gama to chart a seapath to India, and his arrival on the coast of Kerala in 1498, changed the world spice map forever. Indian spices are used in some of the world’s most well-known foods, including Mexican sauces, English curries, and Kahwa (popular Arabic drink). In India, spices have traditionally been farmed on tiny plots of land, with organic cultivation being popular and a norm for some spices.

India sells spices to almost 180 countries, with exports rising from $230 million in 1987 to around $5 billion. Spices like turmeric, ginger, coriander, and cumin are in high demand. So far, 26 Indian spices, including green cardamom from Coorg, Mizo ginger, and Kanyakumari cloves, have been given the GI (Geographical Indication) label. However, there are difficulties when it comes to export of raw spices. Many other Asian and African countries have a cost advantage over India. Let us look at how India can remove bottlenecks in the spice supply chain and accelerate the growth of spice exports.

India produces a wide range of spices and holds a prominent position in world spice production. Because of the varying climates - from tropical to sub-tropical to temperate-almost all spices grow splendidly in India. In reality almost all the states and Union territories of India grow one or the other spice. Under the Act of Parliament, a total of 52 spices are brought under the purview of Spices Board. However, 109 spices are notified in the ISO list.

Spices Board (Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India) is the flagship organisation for the development and worldwide promotion of Indian spices. The Board is an international link between the Indian exporters and the importers abroad. The Board has been spearheading activities for excellence of Indian spices, involving every segment of the industry. The Board has made quality and hygiene the corner stones for its development and promotional strategies.

Spices Board, the statutory organisation constituted on February 26, 1987, under the Spices Board Act, 1986, with the merger of the erstwhile Cardamom Board and Spices Export Promotion Council under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, is responsible for the export promotion of the 52 scheduled spices and development of Cardamom (Small and Large). Spices Board is the flagship organisation for the development and worldwide promotion of Indian spices. The Board has been spearheading activities for the excellence of Indian spices, so as to help the Indian spice industry in attaining the vision of becoming the international processing hub and premier supplier of clean and value-added spices and herbs to the industrial, retail and food service segments of the global spices market.

The mandate of the Board is primarily development of Cardamom (Small and Large), promotion of export of spices and regulating the quality of spices for export. During 2020-21, despite the continuance of Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent recession in the global economy, spices export from India continued its upward trend and crossed the milestone of $3.6 billion mark for the first time in the history of spices export. The estimated export during 2020-21 has been 15,65,000 tonne valued Rs 27,193.20 crore ($3624.76 million) against 12,08,400 tonne valued Rs 22,062.80 crore ($3110.20 million) achieved during the previous financial year. The spices export during 2020-21 attained an all-time record in terms of both volume and value. Compared to 2019-20, the export has shown an increase of 30% in quantity and 23% in value. In dollar terms, the increase is 17%.

Indian spices and spice products were exported to 180 destinations globally in 2020-21. The leading destinations among them were China, USA, Bangladesh, Thailand, the UAE, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the UK, Indonesia, and Germany. These nine destinations contributed more than 70 per cent of the total export earnings during 2020-21.

During 2020-21, chilli is the single largest spice exported from the country followed by mint products, cumin, spice oils and oleoresins, and turmeric constituting 80 per cent of the total spices export from the country.

There is a consensus among stakeholders that India’s spice industry needs to focus on enhancing exports of value-added spices. Given the constant competition from low-cost economies, value-addition is critical to maintaining India’s leadership position in the global spice market. The Spice Board has reintroduced value-added programmes and is publicising the benefits of different government initiatives aimed at encouraging value addition for exports. Through the eight spice parks built up in major production centres across India for the benefit of growers and entrepreneurs, the Spice Board has enabled access to primary processing and value addition in spices, assisting in greater price realisation.

Most of the latest trade restrictions erected against local producers revolve around quality. India needs to upgrade its production and manufacturing systems to match the high quality and food safety standards set by countries around the world. India’s goal should be to maintain the Indian spice industry’s competitive edge while also focusing on meeting demanding quality and food safety regulations.

The Spices Board has digitised essential compliances as part of the Commerce Ministry’s initiative to streamline compliances and make doing business in India easier. As a result, the method for issuing Certificates of Registration for Spice Export has gone completely online. In this connection, the Ministry is now reviewing the Spices Board Act in order to remove restrictive measures and create a more business-friendly environment.

The Indian spice industry hopes to increase the share of value-added products in the export basket from 50% to 70% by 2026.  The Indian government is taking a multi-pronged approach to help make Indian spices a bigger attraction. For example, collaboration with state governments is being considered to organise tours, sampling festivals, and exhibitions to raise awareness about Indian spices throughout the world. The government has declared its intention to scale-up India’s exports to $10 billion in the following five years, by 2027, and then double again by 2032.

(Gaikwad is research scholar, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani; Dr Kshirsagar is professor and head, Department of Food Engineering, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani; Dr Patil is associate professor, Department of Food Engineering, College of Food Technology, VNMKV, Parbhani. They can be reached at
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