With reports indicating the presence of aflatoxin in nutmeg and nut-mace exported from the country, the Spices Board is initiating comprehensive measures to enhance the quality of harvesting, post harvesting and processing operations in the country. At a nutmeg farmer-exporter interface, Spices Board officials said that a series of steps are being mooted in the 12{+t}{+h} Plan to remove the menace of aflatoxin in nutmeg, right from the harvest operations all the way to packing, processing and finally export. The Spices Board in association with the Indian Institute of Spices Research and Kerala Agricultural University had campaigned in different nutmeg-growing regions in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and urged farmers to improve post-harvest operations in nutmeg and mace in view of the strict regulations imposed by major buying countries, including the European Union, on account of the presence of aflatoxin.

The farmer-exporter interface deliberated in detail various problems and explored the possibility of working out an action plan. The meeting constituted a committee comprising experts from the Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kerala Agricultural University, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Indian Cardamom Research Institute and various farmers' representatives to study the different drying systems and suggest an ideal curing process. With the Government's approval, Spices Board is likely to provide support to farmers and farmer groups to establish the right system for production of superior quality nutmeg and mace.

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The meeting also suggested a package of practices, detailed plant protection procedures, periodic farmer advisory meetings and trainings, support for establishing processing systems, day-to-day dissemination of price-information on nutmeg and mace to farmers on a realistic basis and help to the farmer to adopt the right growing and processing systems.

The Spices Board plans to position nutmeg as a purely organic crop and aims to undertake massive campaigns to promote its uses and benefits. This will help in sustaining the market and stabilise prices.

The meeting was attended by farmers from the various prominent nutmeg growing locations of Kerala and Pollachi in Tamil Nadu. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Spices Research, President of the All Kerala Nutmeg Growers Association, Mr P D Zackaria, exporters and Spices Board Directors spoke at the interface. Mr Philip Kuruvilla, Spices Board member and Chairman of the World Spice Organisation, presided over the meeting. The Deputy Director of the Spices Board, Dr P.S.Sreekantan Thampi welcomed the gathering and Mr John Panackal of Kaduthuruthy proposed the vote of thanks.

(This article was published on August 28, 2011)
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