The spices industry is confronting a major challenge of declining quantity for exports due to supply shortfalls and quality concerns.

This calls for immediate crisis management by revamping the entire supply chain starting from researchers, farmers, exporters, importers and consumers while ensuring adequate Government intervention and back-up support, Dr A. Jayathilak, Chairman, Spices Board, said.

Inaugurating an one-day workshop on ‘Sustainable Growth in the Spices Sector' organised jointly by the Spices Board, World Trade Organisation (WTO) Cell of Kerala Government and the World Spice Organisation, he said that though substantial jump in exports was observed in the past five years, export in quantity of spices has declined in the recent past.

While 32 per cent of the quantum and 40 per cent of the value targeted for spices export has been achieved in the year 2011-2012, the question as to why there is a fall in quantity remains. While Kerala's contribution to the spices sector needs to be improved, Karnataka had made huge advancements in pepper production.

India's exports

India is the largest producer, exporter and consumer of spices in the world, but exports only 10 per cent of its total production, though it contributes almost 50 per cent of the global requirements, a press release issued here said.

There has been increasing global demand for spices and India has to consolidate and maintain its position as the world leader in this sector.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr K. Prathapan, Director, State Horticulture Mission, stressed the need to ensure quality planting materials to farmers. The work shop is a definite step on convergence of resources in this sector. Research and results of research should reach the farmers, he said.

The workshop chalked out strategies to ensure high yield and better quality among five major spices with high export potential — black pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg — by securing high quality planting material, overcoming soil constraints, dealing with devastating diseases and assuring stable price.

Mr Philip Kuruvilla, Chairman, WSO, detailed the parameters to remain internationally competitive for sound export business in the WTO era.

He outlined the major challenges in spice trade and highlighted the need to meet international standards on food safety and food security by resolving the problem of pesticide residues, presence of aflatoxin and illegal dyes.

Mr George Paul, Director of the World Spice Organisation, said that agricultural sustainability is primarily a question of human sustainability and therefore purity of food is an important factor. The international food safety standards are nothing but standards for human sustainability.

Scientists and experts from the Kerala Agriculture University, Indian Institute of Spices Research, World Spice Organisation and Spices Board, led the technical session on field problems and research interventions.

Constraints and opportunities from the farmers' perspective were also discussed. Spice farmers from various parts of the state, spices exporters, traders, scientists and foreign delegates participated.

(This article was published on January 20, 2012)
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