India is known as the home of spices and boasts of a long history of trading with the ancient civilisations of Rome and China. Indian spices are the most sought-after globally, given their exquisite aroma, texture and taste. India has the largest domestic market for spices in the world.
Of the 109 varieties of spices listed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the country produces more than 65. The varying climatic conditions in India provide ample scope for the cultivation of a variety of spices. Almost all Indian states produce spices, with the total area under spice cultivation pegged at around 3.15 million hectares.
India commands a formidable position in world spice trade.
During 2017-18, India exported 1,028,060 tons of spices and spice products which were valued at around Rs 17,929.55 crore (US$ 2,781.46 million). Exports grew by 8% in terms of volume and 6% in terms of value (US dollars). In terms of targeted exports the actual achievement is 100% in terms of volume and 105% in dollar terms of value. USA is the top export destination for Indian spices followed by Vietnam, China, UAE and Malaysia. Chilli is India’s top spice export by value followed by mint products, spice oils & oleoresins, cumin and turmeric.
The spice export basket consists of whole spices, organic, spice mixes, spice blends, freeze dried, curry powders/mixtures, oleoresins, extracts, essential oils, de-hydrated, spice in brine and other value added products.
- India is a prominent producer of different spice oils and oleoresins from spices of various grades.
- During the course of time, India has been successfully manufacturing and exporting value added spice products
- There are stringent quality control measures in place, including pre-shipment inspection, validation of quality checks and mandatory inspection by the Spices Board.
- There are strict checks on physical, chemical and microbial parameters including pesticide residues, aflatoxins, heavy metals and other contaminants/adulterants.
- Over the years, the Indian spice community has evolved and matured as a technology-led, quality-conscious, customer-centric and market-driven industry. This makeover has led to a rapidly growing variety of value-added spices in ground, crushed, cracked, blended, dehydrated forms in bulk, in brine and in consumer packs (curry mixes, natural food colours, spice extracts, mint oils, menthol crystals, menthol powder and several spice-based industrial raw materials). Indian spice oils and oleoresins continue to dominate the international processed food market.
- Breakthrough technological developments are throwing open immense potential and possibilities in every realm, almost every day. Harnessing the technological developments, Indian spices have unleashed their inherent potential and are spreading their wellness, healthy goodness and application capabilities to a wide spectrum of industry verticals like curry blends, pharma industries, medical applications and industrial applications.
- In recent years, organic farming has gained considerable importance. The spices produced from this type of farming are without any harmful ingredients. Organic farming ensures that the spices keep their inherent taste, aroma and other health benefits intact. Exports of spices have been significantly increased due to the major shift of farming practices to organic methods.
Major consuming countries of Indian spices like America and members of the EU have strict quality compliance norms. Indian exporters have been successful in complying with such strict quality stipulations with the help of various quality improvement programmes initiated by the Spices Board. The Board has launched special industrial parks for processing and value addition of spices and spice products called spices parks. The spices are regionally divided with a very well-conceived approach with integrated operations for cultivation, post harvesting, processing for value addition, packaging, storage and exports of spices and spice products which adhere to the quality specifications of the consuming countries.
The basic objective behind the conceptualisation of the spice parks has been the provision of common infrastructural facilities for both post-harvest activities and processing of spices and spice products along with backward integration by providing rural employment. The spice parks have processing facilities which are at par with international standards where the products undergo cleaning, grading, sorting, grinding, packing and warehousing. Educative services are also provided to the farming and trading communities at the park. Training programmes providing information on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), post harvest operations, advanced processing practices, global food safety and quality standards are disseminated to farmers. The spice parks ensure a better pricing for the products as they help in shortening the channels in the supply chain system. Farmers can utilise the facilities provided at the spice parks to help them improve the quality of their products and sell directly to the exporters.
The spice parks which are under the aegis of the Spices Board are:
Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh)
Guna (Madhya Pradesh)
Guntur (Andhra Pradesh)
Sivaganga (Tamil Nadu)
Raebareli (Uttar Pradesh)
The spices processing market in India has seen an increase in volumes, owing to the huge global demand for processed Indian spices such as oleoresins and seasonings, primarily from the UAE, the US, the European Union and the Asia-Pacific. The demand for oleoresins and seasonings has led many players to focus on research and technology to manufacture innovative products.
Since quality is an important parameter for export of Indian spices, the Spices Board established the Quality Evaluation Laboratory in 1989 for monitoring the quality of spices produced and processed in the country. The laboratory provides analytical services to the Indian spice industry, including analysis of samples collected for compulsory inspection on chillies, chilli products and turmeric powder for exports. The laboratory at Kochi has certifications from the British Standards Institution, UK for ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System since 1997, ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management System since 1999 and Accredited under the National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories (NABL) (under the ISO/IEC: 17025:2005) in 2004. The activities of the laboratory are fully computerised and linked with the network since 1999. The laboratory has three divisions including chemistry lab, residue lab and microbiology lab which undertake speedy and efficient handling of the analysis as per the various parameters.
The various quality standards which are applicable are BIS, FSSAI, AGMARK, ASTA, ESA. The regional quality evaluation laboratories established across the country are as follows:
Laboratory (Year of establishment)
Mumbai, Maharashtra (2008)
Guntur, Andhra Pradesh (2010)
Gummidipoondi, Tamil Nadu (2011)
Narela, New Delhi (2012)
Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu (2013)
Codex Alimentarius Commission
The Codex Alimentarius Commission is responsible for the establishment of sound internationally agreed guidelines for national food control systems based on the criteria of consumer health protection and fair trade practices by taking into consideration the needs and special concerns of all countries. It provides member nations with a forum where they can meet and exchange ideas and information relevant to food safety and trade issues in order to elaborate food standards to facilitate international trade.
The key issues pertaining to Codex are:
National Food Control System
Labelling of Genetically Modified Foods
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Measures to boost export of Spices
Spices Board has implemented several export development/promotion programmes, which include adoption of upgraded technology in spice processing, setting up of quality evaluation labs by the exporters, quality certification, packaging development and bar coding, product development and research for high-end value addition, sending business samples abroad, setting up of common sterilization units and participation in international fairs/meetings/seminars. Spices Parks are also in the process of being established for providing common infrastructure facilities for cleaning, grading, processing, packing, storing, primarily to promote value addition and quality improvement of spices, along with backward linkages.