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NEW DELHI: Prices of cumin, the ubiquitous spice, are on fire due to a sharp decline in output in 2021-22 (November-May), ratings agency Crisil said in a research report on Tuesday.

According to the report, acreage under the spice fell an estimated 21% on-year to 9.83 lakh hectare during the rabi season 2021-2022, with major drops in key producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan.

To add to the woes, adverse climatic conditions hit yields, down 20% on year in Gujarat and 15% in Rajasthan. India's cumin output is, thus, estimated to have declined 35% year-on-year to 5,580 lakh tonne in 2022, as per Crisil.

While cumin, the second-most popular spice in the world after black pepper, brings out the flavours and adds depth to dishes, it also has a significant place in Indian folklore: it was used as a gift for the brides and also to pay taxes.

Native to Egypt’s Nile valley and the Eastern Mediterranean, it is now largely produced in four countries — India, Syria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

India's cumin output was also hit due to farmers shifting to mustard and gram crops, attracted by high prices, during the sowing season. Mustard prices rose 43% to 74/kg, while those of gram were up around 35%.

India's cumin exports, meanwhile, have been under pressure, falling 24% on year in fiscal 2022  due to a decline in shipments to China following reports of pesticide residue in Indian consignments. Given that production will likely fall this year, exports are expected to decline as well.

That apart, India does benefit from the fact that the crop harvesting calendar varies across cumin cultivating countries. In India, cumin is grown as a rabi crop — sown during October to December and harvested between February and April. It is able to fill the void created by other countries’ lean season.

Today, India accounts for 70% of the world’s cumin production and is also the largest exporter, shipping out 30-35% of its output. A shortfall in the country’s output is bound to push up international prices as well, Crisil said.

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