Previous WSC's

About 1995 World Spice Congress


The World Spice Congress was organised during 15-18 February 1995 at Cochin jointly by the Spices Board and the All India Spices Exporters' Forum. It was the 3rd in a series after the Congresses at Bangalore in 1990 and at Goa in 1992. The theme of this Congress was VISION 2000. 296 delegates attended the Congress.


The Congress was inaugurated by Mr. Tejendra Khanna, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce on 15th February 1995. He urged the exporters to ensure 'ZERO DEFECT' in the spice exports from India. He called for inputs in areas like pest control, pesticide residue control and quality up gradation.

Mr. AI Goetze, President, American Spice Trade Association, Mr. Peter J Knight, Chairman, International General Produce Association, Mr. Martin J Muggeridge, European Spice Association, spoke on the occasion. They emphasised the need for closer cooperation between importing and exporting countries.

Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Internationally renowned agricultural scientist, was honoured during the Session.

Mr. T. Nandakumar, Chairman, Spices Board welcomed the distinguished gathering. He explained the objective of the Congress as "PROVIDING VALUE TO THE CONSUMER AND RETURNS TO THE FARMER"

A vote of thanks was proposed by Mr. Ram Kumar Menon, Chairman, All India Spices Exporters' Forum, Cochin. He mentioned that achieving 25% value in the global spice trade by 2000 AD.

The session ended with an impressive audiovisual presentation emphasising the strengths of India in production, processing and quality of spices.


The Business Session was held on 16th and 17th February 1995. The Session began with a keynote address by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. He briefly touched upon the implications of the new trade order under the World Trade Organisation, challenges to the spice industry in increasing productivity, quality, value addition and equity. He urged the Industry to harness and adopt the latest technologies in information, renewable energy, management and biotechnology for improving the productivity and quality of Indian spices. The spice industry has to become environment friendly with sustainable technologies in production and export.

Mr. J. S. Gill, Joint Secretary to the Government of India was in the chair.

The issues in global spice trade were discussed in three separate Sessions namely; Markets, Products and Quality. Separate sessions on irradiation of spices and environmentally friendly spice extraction process were held.


The Plenary Session discussed the major issues raised during Business Session. "Add value by Quality" was adopted as the future direction for the spice Industry. It was agreed that the next World Spice Congress would be anniversary of the visit of Vasco da Gama to India.


A colourful exhibition displaying the wide range of spices and spice products of India was organised along with the Congress. The scientific and technological advances of the Spice Industry were shown in detail. It was well received by the delegates and visitors.


A cooking demonstration by Taj Group of Hotels was organised for spouses on 16th February. Indian dishes using different spices were prepared with the participation of spouses. The following day, a presentation was made on 'Body and Beauty Care' by Mrs. Nita Bhandari of M/s Shahnaz Hussain. Use of spices in the facial mask and body care was explained and demonstrated.


A cultural programme focusing on Indian dances was organised on 16th evening. Visit to spice plantations and local sight seeing were also arranged on 18th.


Q. Whether the demand for oleoresins is likely to go up?


A. There will be an increased demand for oleoresins in the coming years especially in view of the quality consideration.


Q. How does the quality of Indonesian and Brazil black pepper compare with Indian black pepper particularly in regard to moisture content, microbiological specifications?


Q. Is there any specific reasons for the preference of pepper from Indonesia in Europe?


A. There is no preference for Indonesian pepper in Europe. You may see the details of Indonesian pepper exports to Europe. It is mainly white pepper. Regarding black pepper, I think the preferences are changing mainly because of the price but not for the quality. For the first question I have to say that India is the first country to deliver quality pepper. Brazil and Indonesia are not able to deliver such quality pepper. I think that the demand of the Indian pepper in Europe will go up considering these aspects.


Q. You have mentioned that there is no growth in the spice sales in the U.S. Is it not contradictory to your statement that the ethnic food consumption is increasing in the U.S.?


A. Retail sector constitutes about 44% of spice sales in the U.S. whereas the ethnic consumption is more in the food service sector, which includes restaurants and fast food shops. We can see a 6% growth in the food service sector, which is very small in the total market.


Q. The EEC is developing health standards for spices. Who will enforce them? At present what is the situation? Why does West Europe buy 'inferior' quality product as compared to U.S.A.


A. There are two ways to enforce the hygienic standards. In Germany for companies like Nestle, there is monthly audit by the Quality Assurance Management. There is also a special enforcement authority to enforce compliance of product quality. The consumers in Europe are very well organised and they are educated by the mass media. It can be seen that every week we are facing problems due to chemical contamination in food, food poisoning etc. This makes the government alert and introduce more le al provisions.


Q. Throughout this discussion there has been no focus on the producer. What wiII be the future of the producer? Can we assure a fair price to the farmer?


A. Throughout the Congress today many speakers touched on this subject. Dr Swaminathan pointed out that it is necessary that primary producers are to be included in sharing the profit. Some other speakers told in the morning that producers and consumers are moving closer and closer and this movement in the world is bringing the producer prices closer to what the buyers are paying.


Q. IGPA makes changes in the contract unilaterally. Do they take opinion of the buyers or sellers' associations or just change or add changes as required by the IGPA? When contract term is changed is there sufficient notice given to the seller countries that they are going to change such and such contract terms or instead just change the term? Is it not better that the selling community is consulted and their problems also are taken into consideration?


A. The buyers' associations and the sellers associations are to be consulted of these things. But if we consult you on every clause on a contract and stick on to your views, there would never be a new contract. What we have done is that we have established a contract to the best of our ability and if you feel strongly against this, you tell the Spices Board, We will hold meetings. If you are not happy, we will even take that clause out.

Q. If ESA is going to implement their own contract what will be the future of IGPA?
A. Both IGPA and ESA are working closely in harmony. They will integrate contracts and this will continue. Many of the ESA meetings are purely of a technical nature, very much concerned with the problems of analysts, problems of packaging, problems of distribution. ESA is functioning efficiently for global trading.

What we have to remember is that IGPA exists as a trading organization and it has existed for a long time. With the changing food laws, it has become necessary for the consumer to form another association to redress the technical problems. Consequently IGPA and ESA are working together.

Q. Don't you think that the right way to improve the quality in the growing countries would be to sit with them and gradually make a time bound programme for achieving the desired quality level?
A. It is good thing that we sit down and deliberate on improving quality. As you are aware the big groups worldwide are becoming more important and they are already forming arrangements with spice industry in India to work together.


The Chairman of the session requested the members of the panel to give their observations.

Mr. M.K.K. Menon commenting on the presentation of Mr. Nigel Parker on the steps that are to be followed in marketing, remarked that some of the problems like deliveries arriving with bugs can be avoided by careful selection of the exporter as the number of exporters of spices in India is around 1200 and only some have the requisite facilities. A good exporter can be located by going through the list with Spice House Certificate. Another observation, Mr. Menon made on Mr. Nelson's presentation was on the shift of retail marketing to institutional trade in USA. He asked what amount of shift the Americans see international trade over the next 3 to 5 years. He also observed that the volume of pepper had come down in 1993 as per the paper, but based on the slides there was actually some growth in this commodity.

Mr. Jim Thrower stated that there is a in the US spice trade. More and more people prefer convenient foods. The meaning of quality over the years has changed to purity and different governmental agencies and public at large insist on it. He observed that the demand for value added products, and for better packaging is on the increase. Jute bags are not commonly acceptable as the spice packed in these bags needs cleaning again. For the shift of retail trade to institutional trade, he said that it is due to increase in migrants from different countries to US that created new trend and new demand for herbs, spicy foods, hot foods and ethnic foods.

Regarding packaging, quality and standard specifications, Mr. Kishore Shamji observed that the Indian exporters are ready to meet any standard/quality specifications provided they have adequate returns for meeting them. Indian exporters are interested to have long-term relationship with the importers.

Mr. Brian Butler pointed out that there is increasing consciousness in the US for hygienic food. Secondly, people having a sizeable income are going to restaurants and prefer convenient foods. This results in increase in demand for traditional products and also for overall increase in the use of spices. He added that food industries are not in favour of sterilising foods.


Q. Is there any estimate on the consumption of spices by the pharmaceutical industry? If not, what is the future outlook on this?


A. I think that there is no exact estimate available. But it can be stated that the amount of consumption is very small.


Q. What are the technical specifications of organic spices? How it could be known that it is organic?


A. Organic spice is one, which has the freshness and the neutrality. In the US there is a Board functioning on organic products since last three years and so far they have not published the rules, but given general guidelines. In going for organic production, the soil should not have been treated with any chemicals and fertilizers, and must have to prove and certify the facilities in the growing areas. There are areas, which are declared for organic farming.


Q. What is the future of organic spices? What are the differences in quality between organic and inorganic products?


A. There are some legitimate suppliers in the US who advertise and market organic products and such products are getting good demand.


Q. What is the programme for production of organic spices in India?


A. The Spices Board is developing the cultivation system for the production of different organic spices including pepper. Field studies have been started in the research institute at Myladumpara. Spices Board has been making efforts to develop export of organic spices.



The following were in the panel:

Swani Corporation
4, Hari Nivas, C Road
Church Gate
Bombay - 400020, India

Managing Director
Inabata Koryo Co. Ltd
520, Tagawa
3Chome, Yodogawaku
Osaka 532, Japan

National Sales Manager
Gourmet Club Corp.
20 Potash Road
N.J. 07462, U.S.A.

Mr. Kirandip Singh Swani observed that the three speakers could have given much more information on the traditional home use of spices.

Mr. Keishiro Inabata talked about the non-traditional uses of spice in Japan. Japan prefers natural products to industrially processed products. However there are two quality problems. (1) high bacterial count (2) loss of flavours due to high temperature treatment. To reduce bacterial count there are several measures. In Japan sterilisation by ethylene oxide is practically no more in use. There are more and more processors of spices in Japan using super heated vapour resulting in loss of flavour, which can be compensated by supplementing with essential oil of spices. He observed that irradiation might be a good method for this purpose; there is no hope that the Japanese Govt. will permit it in the near future. There is a ling among the Japanese people against irradiation, may be due to the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. As restaurants want to prolong the shelf life of food by reducing bacterial count, use of oils and oleoresins is gaining momentum. For avoiding the loss of flavour, food is packed in heat resistant pouches, and the pouches are sterilised at a temperature of 121 degree C. for about 20 minutes under pressure. Such processed foods like Japanese biriyani can be kept for one year at room temperature. The production of this type of pouches in Japan is the highest in the world. Amongst the foods processed in Japan, the ready to eat curry has the maximum demand. According to him the use of spices in Japan will continue to increase as Japanese are interested in ethnic foods. The use of nontraditional spice products in Japan will go up only if quality is maintained according to Japanese standards.

Mr. Thomas Overby observed that all the presentations were very interesting especially the potential health benefits from usage of spices. He wished that the American Spice Trade Association should explore the possibility of using spices as health food and doing research in this regard. He added that there is tremendous scope for increasing the use of nontraditional spice products and value added form of spices in the US market.
Mr. Klaus Dieter Protzen is an importer of essential oils and spice oleoresins. He pointed out that quality is not an absolute criterion but some specific requirements have to be met with.

He observed that defects should be zero, which means there should not be any contamination. Quality of Indian spices has improved considerably since the first Congress held at Bangalore 5 years ago. Exchange of information between India and importing countries has also improved and it should be maintained. As an importer he observed that there should not be room for complaints due to pesticide residues, heavy metals etc. in the imported spices and spice products.

Mr. Eapen George commented on the raised by some of the speakers and explained how the Indian spice industry is cling. He told that the Indian spice has changed considerably after the Congress. The industry is committed to quality as its mission and the necessary re is being built up for it.

He referred to the concerns of the associations like ASTA and ESA, in improving standards. Even if 15% moisture level is allowed in the contract for pepper it can be transported properly and/or even in the importers' warehouse as there microbial growth.

The moisture level has bearing on the cost of pepper. The pepper at 11% moisture being supplied from India will obviously be more expensive than pepper, which is being supplied at 13-14% moisture from other origin. The companies in Europe have declared that pepper should not be sterilised with ethylene oxide or irradiated. He doubted whether all the EC Countries have taken this stand as spices treated with ethylene oxide can be sent to Italy or France. He asked whether ESA is in a position to get a higher tolerance for pesticide residues? As a member of the American Pesticide Executive Committee he added that the imported spices might have to meet the consumer tolerance level and not the farm tolerance level. Associations like ASTA and ESA have to work together for common standards.

Mr. Kantial Dalal suggested that a laboratory might be established by ASTA and ESA in India and the consignments shipped after checks by the lab.

Mr. Kishor Shamji also agreed to the views of Mr. Kantilal. He told that now the consignments are reaching their destination fast. It takes only 14 days for the vessels to Europe and 25 days to the US. During this short time chance for contamination is absolutely minimum. There are chances for contamination due to negligence on the part of the shipping company. These problems may be minimised and the exporters from India will meet quality standards. Exporters are prepared to supply 100% acceptable quality goods, which are decided by ASTA, and ESA provided the inspection is carried out here. Exporters are willing to pay the cost. ASTA and ESA can join together with Spices Board to set up the facilities here.

Mr. AI Goetze, ASTA President agreed to this partly. He said that the facilities can be established and it is a matter of working out the mechanism. The issues need to be addressed after checking the goods are the kind of transportation and the control system during transportation. These can be worked out once an understanding is developed. It can be negotiated as a part of post Congress deliberations.

Chairman of the session Dr G.L. Kaul concluded that there is a small Sap in terms of processing technology, packaging and stuffing the containers, shipment and also in the understanding of people. It is the area where we should look forward to some more technical inputs.


Q. Can the Spices Board give support to exporters to avoid contaminations?


A. The Spices Board has a number of programmes to support the exporters to make available quality spices for export in addition to the programmes separately for the farmers. Some of the programmes include Spice House Certificate for those having facilities for processing quality spices, equipping laboratories for quality check including for microbial contamination and pesticide residue, adoption of ISO 9000 etc,


Q. It is made clear that spices from India to other countries need stringent quality control measures which in turn require (a) investment, and (b) use of large space. In this Gamut where do you see the small producers? Is there not a fear of them being swallowed up by this kind of a scenario?


A. Spices are produced in India largely by small farmers. Any programme for the farmers for development and quality improvement takes into consideration this fact in view.


Q. What fumigant gases could be used other than ethylene oxide? Which gas is permissible for sterilisation in Europe and USA?


A. Use of ethylene oxide for sterilisation is banned in Europe. However it is permitted in USA. The thrust should be not to decontaminate spices by use of chemicals, but to supply quality spices, which are prepared by avoiding the chances for contamination. There are safer sterilisation methods using steam/heat which has to be perfected and used commercially with out any adverse effect on flavour constituents,


Q. What are the levels of pesticide residues of chlorinated hydrocarbons permitted for ethylene oxide treated spices in USA?


A. There is no separate specification the levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons in spices treated with ethylene oxide. The permitted levels of pesticide residues including chlorinated hydrocarbons are given in the booklet 'Clean spices - A Guide Book for Shippers of Products to the US Spice Trade'.


Q. We are manufacturer exporters of ground-blended spices in consumer packs to various countries. While each country has its own quality standards, as manufacturer we have limitations to produce for each country separately. What are the steps being taken to have one unified world standard for spices? At what stage it is?


A. This is a genuine problem faced by the spice export industry in general. This has to be sorted out through dialogue by the exporters' association with the importing countries for which the Spices Board will give all support.


Q. ASTA and ESA have set minimum standards of quality for spices. They should appoint competent officers in India with necessary laboratory facilities for testing and issuing certification of compliance of standards at the source of exports. This will eliminate risk of rejection in the importing country. Corrective action is easy and economical before export. Exporters will pay cost of quality check. What is the reaction of ASTA and ESA to this proposal?


A. This is a proposal, which could be considered both by ESA and ASTA.

Q. Can you give us some more information on recommended cleaning equipment for spices to enable them to comply to FDA/ ASTA specifications especially with reference to excreta of animals, birds and rodents?


A. There is no specific equipment, which will guarantee the quality of spices as per FDA/ASTA requirements. It is always desirable to go for prevention of contamination than adopting to cleaning operations. The latest ASTA Publication 'Clean Spices - A Guide Book for Shippers of Products to the US Spice Trade' will be given to Spices Board for reference.


Q. What is going to be the solution for controlling microbes considering third world farming/storage methods when the developed countries have banned the use of ETO and users still to accept irradiation, Steam sterilisation is still under doubt on account of loss of flavour/colour?


A. Prevention is the best method for eliminating problems of microbial contamination. Only in unavoidable situation sterilisation can be adopted. We have to work for safe sterilisation methods, which are acceptable to consumers.


Q. Is it necessary/mandatory in USA to declare on the label that the contents are "irradiated"? If so, will this not scare away the consumer?

A. Yes. It is mandatory. Once the consumers are aware of the safety approach in irradiation there will not be any scare.


Q. Which are the spice importing countries, which have adopted irradiation technology for spices?


A. Some of the countries have already adopted irradiation technology but retail sale of irradiated spices is very much limited. As per an estimate nearly 25000 tonnes of spices are irradiated globally.


Q. Irradiation distorts the organoleptic profile of spices. Comment please.



A. There is no authentic finding against irradiation on this score.


Q. What are the main myths that are holding back irradiation? Could you please exemplify? Does the US and Europe have a consistent policy on spice irradiation?


A. It is the lack of understanding of the subject by the consumers, which is holding back irradiation. Both USA and Europe have approved irradiation of spices up to 10 Kg.


Q. We manufacture ground spices in consumer packs for domestic consumption as well as export. We are interested to have irradiation treatment facility at our unit. Which system will be more suitable to us? With an installed capacity of 30 - 40 tonnes of spice processing per day, will it be feasible to have the system? What will be the cost factor for the system? Where to look for the system?


A. You may approach the BARC, Bombay for the purpose.


Conclusions &Recommendations

The Congress discussed major issues affecting global spice trade under three main heads; Markets, Products and Quality. The impact of the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the GATT agreement and the coming into being of the World Trade Organisation and the implication of the Global Bio-diversity Convention were also discussed in the context of global spice trade.

The Indian spice industry faces four major challenges, viz., the productivity challenge, the quality challenge, the value addition challenge and the equity challenge. The Forum for Increasing Export of Spices chaired by Dr. M S Swaminathan has offered suggestions for addressing these challenges and for bringing about the requisite degree of coordinated and research action.

- New frontiers of science and technology particularly biotechnology, information technology, spice technology and renewable energy technology will play a dominant role in the future of the spice industry.

- Spices Board should take a lead in setting up a National Grid of Gene Banks of Spice Crops.

- Markets, world over, are growing. Significant growth has been seen in specific spice segments like hot spices (in the US), aromatic culinary herbs (in France), The growth is however not reflected in the retail market segment.

- The major share of growth in the spice industry is accounted for by the industrial the institutional sector. Amongst the emerging markets, South Africa has shown an impressive growth. The UK market showed percent increase in imports during the last five years. USA continues to be the largest individual spice market showing significant growth in hot spice segment. The EEC countries registered a growth of about 45 per cent between 1987 and 1991: Germany lead the imports followed by France, Netherlands, UK and Spain.

- The Japanese market is growing, keeping pace with the trend in the Global Spice Market.

- Other markets like West Asia, North Africa and South East Asia are also growing in terms of spice consumption.

- More and more people are becoming aware of the beneficial effects of spices in food.

- Non traditional use of spices is becoming increasingly popular.

- There is an urgent need to do more research, dissemination and popularisation of the use of spices as health foods, beauty aids and as pharmaceuticals. India could offer a lot of information to the global spice industry because of the traditional use of spices in India in Ayurveda and in the cosmetic industry.

- More value added products need to be developed in producing countries and marketed globally. Existing value added products need to be strengthened to gain additional market advantage.

- Quality has become the keyword in the spice industry today. Almost all importing countries have stringent regulations to enforce safety of food products imported into their countries. These regulations specify quality minima for macro cleanliness standards, aflatoxin, microbial contamination and pesticide residues. It will be imperative for producing countries to meet these standards to retain and increase market shares.

Spice Industries' associations in importing countries are keen to work with associations of producers and exporters to achieve better quality standards.

India has made substantial progress in quality up gradation during last five years. India should continue to strengthen its efforts in this direction to remain the single largest supplier of quality spices to the world.

Many importing countries are looking at India as a consistent source of quality spices. Admittedly, India has significant strengths in production, research, processing capabilities and managerial skills. With the liberalisation of economic policy, multi-nationals have found worthwhile to invest in the Indian spice industry. There is a need for continuous dialogue and interaction between importing countries and major producing countries with regard to the setting up of quality standards. Representatives of American Spice Trade Association and European Spice Association expressed their willingness to work with the Indian spice industry in arriving at an acceptable and achievable quality standards. It was decided that the Spices Board would take the initiative in this matter.

The Congress unanimously agreed that VISION 2000 for the global spice industry is "ADD VALUE BY QUALITY".