From encapsulated spice oils to ginger cocktail, a wide range of spice products is expected to come out of a new proposed Rs10 crore centre, which would collaborate with the Union government’s Mysore-based Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI).
Recently, the government trade promotion body, Spices Board, recommended a formal tie-up with CFTRI to set up a centre for value addition to spices. The proposal is awaiting government nod.
In the short term, the benefits from the proposed centre could very well mean tripling of export earnings in the next three years. By the start of the 12th Plan, those earnings can go up to 10 times, said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce, who visited the institute last month and floated the idea. The long-term benefits would mean not just employment generation through the large number of industries expected to come up for value addition, but also extension of the area currently under spice cultivation.
The shift from raw spice export to that of value-added items will not only increase the income of millions of tiny landowners and workers in allied industries but also help in making India a major player in the global spice trade.
From culinary importance of spices, there now is a shift towards nutraceutical and pharmaceutical value of spices, which hold great promise for the industry, Ramesh said. Although this knowledge was integral to traditional wisdom, it now needs the support of science and validation to become a globally relevant brand equity, which should come through this tie-up, he added.
The new centre hopes to focus on primary and secondary value addition to spices and herbs available with the ministry of science and technology, according to V.J. Kurian, Spices Board chairman. The value addition can be catalyzed and synergized by the high-quality technology developed by the institute. The benefits would trickle down to the farmers and growers, Kurian added.
Technologies used for spices developed at CFTRI already include that for producing high-quality white pepper, spice oil extraction from pepper, ginger, turmeric, chillies, processing of cocoa beans to cocoa butter and powder, curing and polishing of turmeric, green pepper in brine, gravy paste for different Indian dishes, and quick curing of vanilla beans.
India produces around 3 million tonnes of spices worth around $4 billion (Rs16,400 crore) of which exports account for hardly 10% of the production. Earnings from export account for Rs2,675 crore. Of this, value-added items have a share of hardly 18%, according to industry estimates.
Importing countries are very particular about standards related to safety and hygienic quality of spices, said Kurian. The quality of spices, to a large extent, depends on post-harvest operations including curing, drying, cleaning, grading and packaging. The process should ensure proper conservation of the basic qualities of spices such as their aroma, flavour, colour, pungency, and appearance. Value addition of spices has been confined to production of spice oils, powders, curry powder and supply of spices in consumer packs. Spices in their whole form and also ground ones have had limited shelf life.
The centre would be a point of integration for research and development for both backward integration of agriculture and post-harvest technologies. These will be passed on to processors and primary producers, Kurian said.