India’s chilli production is expected to rebound by 23 per cent this season (October 2022-September 2023), while pepper and jeera (cumin) output are also estimated higher.

However, turmeric production will likely be lower due to waterlogging of fields during monsoon, say reports presented at the International Spice Congress 2023 (ISC-2023).

A panel at ISC-2023, organised by the All India Spices Exporters Forum, said jeera prices expected to be bullish while chilli prices may not rule as high as last year.

The global crop outlook will reflect the Indian production trend, barring pepper in which Vietnam is the largest producer. Global pepper production is seen up at 5.39 lakh tonnes (lt) this season against 5.21 lt last season. Pepper prices are likely to be under pressure due to high inventories, while turmeric prices are likely to stay at current levels due to high carryover stocks, the reports said.

Global cumin production continues to be below the 5-lakh-tonnes mark with production in India, which makes up over 90 per cent of the total world production, also remaining below the pre-pandemic level. India’s chilli will likely gain from a 10 per cent fall in the Chinese crop, the reports presented at the end of ISC-2023 titled ‘Reboot n’ rebound — Beyond the new normal’, said.

No threat for chilli

There is no threat to Indian chilli crop from the black thrips, which affected the plants badly dragging yield and production lower. As a result, chilli production dropped to 12 million tonnes (mt).

With the farmers’ outlook changing, the yield is expected to be 1-1.5 tonnes an acre higher in chilli. This will likely result in production increasing to 16 mt.

The crop in most parts of the country such as Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh is good but it has been affected in Madhya Pradesh due to heavy rains and resultant pest attacks.

In view of the lower production last season, chilli exports declined 25 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal. The report, presented by AB Mauri India Pvt Ltd, said stocks in cold storages are 90 per cent lower this year.

Some headway in jeera

Jeera production, which dropped 20 per cent last season to 3.88 lt, has been projected at 4.14 lt in the current season. As a result, global production will be higher at 4.35 lt against 4.08 lt.

But net supplies from India are projected 7 per cent lower keeping the prices bullish, the report prepared by ITC Ltd, said.

The acreage of jeera, which is the largest spice in terms of area of cultivation, is higher by 4.6 per cent this season. The report said the area under jeera increased 13 per cent in Rajasthan to 6.10 lakh hectares (lh). In Gujarat, the acreage dropped by 10 per cent to 2.75 lh. These are the two top producers in the country. Rajasthan is expected to be the top production with the output in the State estimated at 2.12 lt, while in Gujarat, it has been pegged at 2.02 lt.

Pepper’s Covid woes

Pepper cultivation across the global suffers from neglected farms, high labour costs, lower returns, curtained demand and supply chain disruption during the post-Covid period.

The report, prepared by Jayanti Herbs and spices, said production in India will likely increase to 53,500 tonnes from 52,000 last season.

Untimely rains during the time when the spikes grown, high labour cost as well as non-availability of workers have affected pepper output in India. However, the country has high carryover stocks of 16,742 tonnes. Production in Vietnam is seen recovering to 2.25 lt from 2 lt despite exports dropping 8 per cent in 2022. Shipments to China, in particular, declined by 30 per cent.

Brazil is coming up with a bigger crop of 1.08 lakh tonnes and surprisingly, Vietnam is the major importer of the spice from the Latin American nation. Its shipments to the US, however, have been hit by the presence of salmonella bacteria. China’s pepper imports are rebound that it offers hope, said experts at the panel discussion on the crop report.

White pepper prices may rule firm as its production is projected lower at 87,000 tonnes against 95,000 tonnes, while the carryover stocks is projected lower at 17,000 tonnes (26,400 tonnes).

Turmeric lacks gleam

The country’s production is estimated at 13.14 lt against 13.29 lt with heavy rains waterlogging the fields and affecting the output. The area under cultivation is lower in most parts of the country, barring Maharashtra.

Farmers are likey to benefit from low incidences of pest attack and use of lower chemicals. Though demand for turmeric will dictate the price trend, a bearish factor is that there is a large carryover stock of 1.7 lt this season.

The crop study, done by Olam Spices in December and early January, showed that waterlogging affected the turmeric crop in Maharashtra, which accounts for 28 per cent of the area under the spice crop. However, there has been no major pest attack and hence, due to the rise in overall area under the crop, the production was expected to be 10 per cent higher.

Production is projected lower by 5 per cent in Telangana due to overall drop in acreage and 20 per cent in Karnataka due to rot disease. The crop in Tamil Nadu is projected 15-20 per cent lower due to the impact of rains, while the output in Andhra Pradesh has been affected, in addition to rains, pest attacks and diseases.

In the North-East, the area is up 10 per cent and with the crop in fine condition, the production will likely be 15 per cent higher, the report said.