The future of the Indian spices industry looks bright due to the growing demand for spices and fragrance products. Its increasing use as an extract in the health, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries, coupled with increasing product diversification in the food industry, also bodes well for the future. All this points to the continued growth of the industry, said R Dinesh, director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices and Spices, Kozhikode.
However, Dinesh said balancing the needs of different stakeholders requires careful policy design to ensure equitable growth and inclusive development among stakeholder communities. Business line In an exclusive interview.
How do you see Indian Spices’ strategy in competing globally?
Indian spices have created a special niche in the global spice trade. However, in order to consolidate and strengthen our credibility as a global supplier of spices, we need to respond to the needs of the global market, such as growing concerns about food safety and product traceability. While India enjoys rich diversity in spice varieties and cultivation, it should also be open to higher and more sophisticated product differentiation occurring across commodities and product lines in the industry.
We have a variety of heirloom varieties with unique quality parameters that allow commercial access to high-end markets. Our ability to foster and support innovative product development is also critical to remaining competitive in global markets.
Although examples of innovative branding and packaging of spices are isolated and fragmented, further improvements in product packaging and presentation and the creation and development of human resources for these envisioned strategies are also crucial in shaping the future development of the spice industry.
What steps need to be taken to address the situation of detecting adulterated spices?
These issues need to be addressed at all levels, starting from the primary production stage. Incidents of adulteration may affect domestic consumers and end-users in global value chains and may be due to lack of awareness and good production practices. Some reported cases of adulteration turned out to be cases of misbranding.
IISR adopts a multi-pronged approach that focuses on increasing consumer awareness on spice quality parameters and educating the spice growing community to produce clean and food safe spices. It is also working with the spice processing industry to address the issue of adulteration at the intermediate levels of the supply chain.
The institute has developed several cutting-edge technologies for detecting adulteration of spices and spice products. All these measures are expected to produce desirable results. This capability comes from the ongoing efforts of the Spices Council, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, APEDA and others.
What measures has IISR taken in this regard?
Among the stakeholder groups, farmers remain our top priority and we continue to engage with them through multiple channels. This helps to understand the pulse of spice farmers and thus helps align with our research agenda.
Advances in communications technology and the proliferation of digital platforms have enhanced our ability to communicate directly with farming communities, bridging knowledge gaps, especially for geographically disadvantaged stakeholders. The institute also leverages partnerships with farmer collectives, NGOs and industry organizations to provide advisory services to a wider audience. Our national visibility has increased significantly due to close engagement with our stakeholder groups.
Can you tell us more about new research directions in spices?
The institute’s research themes reflect national priorities and the changing dimensions of crop agriculture research. Our research approach sees a shift from crop systems focus to food systems, replacing yield maximization objectives with farmer profit maximization. New paradigms are being incorporated into research aims and objectives, including developing climate-resilient varieties and agronomic practices, promoting carbon-positive interventions in growing and processing, and adopting an ecosystem approach to measure the impact of our interventions.
We believe that research projects should produce results that can be transformed into new products and services and can be further optimally exploited through a strong innovation and start-up ecosystem.
What are the scope of applications of artificial intelligence in spice research?
The application of artificial intelligence and artificial intelligence technology in spice research has broad prospects. Artificial intelligence-based tools and technologies are increasingly used to enhance the cultivation, processing and quality control of spices.
For example, machine learning algorithms can assist with site-specific input management, predict optimal planting times and monitor weather parameters critical for spice crops. On-site quality testing assessments are increasingly being used to support producers and aggregators, enabling farmers to obtain high prices for quality products, while helping the spice processing industry better control the quality of their raw materials.
Several AI-based systems are already being used to identify pests and diseases affecting crops. AI-driven market analytics can provide insights into consumer preferences and trends, guiding producers and exporters to make informed decisions.
Current trends in spice production in India?
Spice cultivation covers nearly 4.5 million hectares, a 10% increase in area, indicating the continued preference of the agricultural community for spice crops, which in turn augurs well for the spice export industry.
Another positive aspect of spice production is having a broader base in terms of geographical distribution of production and diversity of spice commodities in our product portfolio. Our diverse climate and geography support the cultivation of all major spice crops, with production in as many as 13 states exceeding 100,000 tonnes.
How important is the export sector to the spice economy? How are spice exports performing?
Although our exports account for less than 15% of total production and the rest is absorbed by the domestic market, Indian spices are sold to more than 180 countries.
But given the price premium associated with the export market and the potential for job creation across the spices value chain, the export sector is an important driver of growth in the spices industry. In addition, India is a major producer and exporter of fragrance extracts such as essential oils and oleoresins.
The Indian spices export sector has been able to fulfill its export commitments even under adverse conditions, which has strengthened our image as a reliable supplier of quality spices.
Posted on September 25, 2023