Saturday, April 21, 2012


India's dominance in world trade in spices appears to be in danger if the industry does not rise to the challenges posed by new and more stringent quality and safety regulations which are being implemented by many buyer countries. According to the spice industry rejection rates of Indian shipments of spices are becoming alarming and considering that safety is of paramount importance, especially in Japan, Europe and the US, there should not be any surprise if these countries start clamping down on imports from India. The conventional attitude that buyers have no choice but come to India is no more relevant to day and if urgent pro-active steps are not taken to streamline many of the present industrial practices with more stress on safety, there are countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, China and some countries in Africa ready to step in to satisfy the spice needs of the world sooner than later. Here is a commentary on the subject which is an eye opener for spice industry for taking steps for self correction.    

"Indian spice traders and producers are facing challenges like food safety, sustainability and traceability. Food safety regulations are affecting spice exports especially to the countries like Germany, France, England, Japan and Australia. India is biggest producer and exporter of spices in the world. As the regulations varies from country-to-country, it is becoming hard to maintain all the required standards. According to reports, the total export of spices from India during the current financial year, up to November 2011, is 351,900 tonnes valued at Rs 6,209.08 crore. But considering the volumes, the export shows a decline of five per cent in the current year as compared to the previous year. The spices exports for the financial year 2011-12 is fixed at 500,000 tonnes valuing Rs 6,500 crore. The countries that import the maximum of spice products from India are Malaysia for chilli and coriander, USA for pepper, celery, spice oils and oleo resins, China for mint products, Saudi Arabia for cardamom, UAE for turmeric, Bangladesh for ginger and garlic, Pakistan for cardamom large and fennel, UK for cumin, Japan for fenugreek, Nigeria for curry powders and Nepal for other seed spices. Geemon Korah, CEO, Kancor Ingredients Ltd said, "These regulations are badly hitting our export markets. Therefore sustainability is a major issue. The maximum containers are rejected from European countries, Japan and Australia. We are largest exporter of chilli and ginger to these countries." "India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices in the world today, contributing about 48 per cent of the world's requirement of spices. As the global demand for spices is spurring up, it throws up several challenges, mainly for food sustainability, traceability and safety standards. These are not just issues, but threats that can affect the very existence of the spice industry in the country," said A Jayathilak, chairman, Spices Board of India",

There is no point in blaming the buying countries for stiffening the safety standards because increasing knowledge about food contamination and its fatal consequences are forcing the whole world to do that for preventing food poisoning among their population due to imported foods. The Fenugreek "episode" in Europe last year for which imported sprouts from Egypt were blamed brought new focus on this issue and many importing countries are taking measures to prevent repeat of such incidences in future. If India has been caught in this "whirlpool", the country has to blame itself for the situation. No doubt Spices Board is doing a reasonably good job in disciplining the export trade but unless there is an unwavering commitment to quality and safety by the industry, the exports are bound to suffer in the long run.


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