Kochi: An improvement in quality and a global shortfall in supply helped India grow its spice exports 22% to Rs3,576 crore in 2006-07, compared with Rs2,628 crore in 2005-06. Pepper, chilli, and cumin were significant contributors to this growth, according to V.J. Kurian, chairman of the government’s Spices Board, the apex trade-promotion body of the spice industry.
In terms of volume, India exported 3.74 lakh tonnes of spices, 43% more than the 3.5 lakh tonnes it did in 2005-06. However, the recent appreciation of the rupee against the dollar has given spice exporters cause for concern.
Sushma Srikandath, the chairperson of the All India Spice Exporters Forum, an industry association, said that in the wake of the dollar’s depreciation against the rupee, there could be an 8% fall in earnings, and a decline in the volume of exports to the US.
The US is the largest market for Indian spices with a share of 22% by volume and 21% by value of overall Indian spice exports in 2006-07. The country was also the single-largest market for pepper with an intake of 13,886 tonnes in 2006-07 compared with 6,596 tonnes in 2005-06.
The US’ total import of pepper declined to 67,217 tonnes against 68,681 tonnes, but this affected countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Their loss was compensated largely by Indian supply, said Kurian.
Kurian also added that the Spices Board’s efforts to improve the quality of Indian chilli and its perception had helped. In 2003, news reports that said Indian chilli was adulterated with cancer-causing chemical dye, Sudan Red, led to the withdrawal of chilli products worth $500 million in Europe. The Spices Board made pre-shipment tests of chilli and chilli products being exported mandatory from that year. India’s chilli exports have since doubled to Rs807.75 crore and the unit value realization grown to Rs54 a kg from Rs36. China, a major chilli producer, imported 900 tonnes of the spice from India, while other major buyers such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh increased their imports from India too.
A global supply crunch, following drop in production in major cumin producing countries such as Iran and Turkey saw cumin exports from India, the world’s largest producer of the spice grow to 26,000 tonnes, valued at Rs201.5 crore in 2006-07 against 12,879 tonne worth Rs98.18 crore in 2005-06. And exports of mint, which accounts for a full third of India’s exports by value, grew to 16,250 tonne, worth Rs1,100 crore.
India’s mint exports were mainly in raw form, and mainly to China which used the spice in the manufacture of chewing gum and tooth paste. However, the Spices Board plans to create facilities in India to process mint and export value-added products, according to the board’s marketing director S. Kannan.
One spice whose exports saw a significant fall was garlic, from 34,688 tonnes worth Rs48 crore to 11,500 tonnes worth Rs21 crore, mainly due to the sharp decline of shipments to Bangladesh, which sourced more of the spice from China.