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SPICES

Pepper variants, cumin, thyme from India pave the way for global trade
Monday, 16 October, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Shraddha Joshi, Mumbai
India’s efforts to benchmark itself into the global spice trade, recently have paved the way for Codex standards for three spices namely black, white and green (BWG) pepper, cumin and thyme. The approval of the adoption of standards for the three spices is expected to facilitate the evolution of a common standardisation process for their global trade and availability.

The need for Codex standards for spices and herbs was felt with a rise in the number of quality and safety issues of spices. India's export of spices has been rising in the past few years. It reached a record 947,790 tonnes valued at Rs 17,664 lakh in 2016-17.

The members countries of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standard-setting body adopted this standards at its 40th session which was held in the month of July at Geneva.

Commenting on the ease in the process for the exporters after getting the approval Ram
Kumar Menon, head, business committee, All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF), said, “Approval of Codex standards will be of immense help to exporters especially from developing countries since it will facilitate their trade and lead to easing of trade barriers and lead to greater transparency in export. Codex encourages countries to harmonise their national  standards with those of  Codex taking the latter to be a reference point.

He added, “This move will be of benefit to the spice industry and trade since spice standards can vary from region to region and between countries as well. Such multiple standards make it very confusing for farmers and the rest of the stakeholders in the supply chain. A common or harmonised standard will help in suppliers understanding requirements of customers better, support more efficient production practices and facilitate trade to the benefit of developing countries. It will eliminate trade barriers  and help trigger a consultation  and cooperation process among  producing and consuming countries. It should also be noted that standardisation of spices and herbs would bring about uniformity in certification and enable cost efficiency.”

More spices and herbs
Meanwhile, Kantipudi Nirmal Babu, director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kerala said, “The adoption of the Codex standards for three spices (black pepper, cumin and thyme) by the CAC is a pathbreaking development in the area of spices trading and market development. It brings to focus, the issue of quality and safety to the forefront of spice trading. We hope that more spices and herbs will be added to this list.  The move is especially beneficial for India, the largest importer and exporter of spices.  The USP for Indian Black pepper is its intrinsic quality and the establishment and acceptance of Codex standards will ensure that there is no dilution with respect to quality parameters. This will also indirectly help the black pepper farming community by accelerating the process of weeding out sources of low quality black pepper, which has the potential to destabilise domestic black pepper prices realised by the primary producers.”

“An estimate of the impact of Codex standards on black pepper trade volumes cannot be made at this point of time. However, we expect that quality standards will benefit Indian black pepper trade since the produce from India is known for its superior quality. India can leverage its reputation as a source of high quality black pepper to strengthen and diversify its black pepper trade.” he added.

Overwhelming support
The Codex standards were adopted in the wake of India conducting three sessions of Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) in Kochi (in 2014), Goa (in 2015) and Chennai (in 2017). Succeeding in achieving this consensus at the Chennai session, the adopted standards got an overwhelming support from the members countries. It is important to note here that, spices have been included for the first time as commodities that will have such universal standards, which are jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Compliance of standards
Menon was of the opinion that compliance with these standards will help increase in ease of doing exports and thus eventually leading to more volume being traded.

He said, “The standards that are being set are recognised standards that are created after thorough inter-governmental discussions with the dual objectives of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in trade.”

“This will, therefore, assist exporters in developing countries who are, in any case, the major producers and suppliers of spices to avoid trade disputes and crippling barriers to trade,” Menon said.

Need for Codex standards
The need to have Codex standards for spices and herbs is self-evident. It should be noted that setting harmonised standards through the Codex process will find greater acceptability amongst nations the world over.

Menon said, “As mentioned earlier, harmonisation of standards of spices under Codex will ensure transparency, fair practices in trade and commerce and thereby facilitate trade in a proper manner.”

“It will also lead to capacity building in producing countries which will be beneficial to them. Since Codex standards are set through a process of inter–governmental discussions and decided after analytical and scientific tests they will be acceptable to legislative bodies and also result in greater chances of countries aligning their national standards than any other standard,” he added.

India, which is currently controlling majority of the global spice trade, has been witnessing more spices line up to meet the international Codex standards.

“We understand that Codex has plans to cover the full range of spices and herbs, but it will be done on a priority basis,” Menon said.

“As the number of spices and herbs available for world trade are large, it cannot be done all at once and has to be prioritised,” he added.

“It is important that all the products/items coming under this category are covered, since there are some which suffer from a lack of standards, leading to unreasonable barriers to trade and thereby unfair trade practices,” said Menon.

Background
In 2013, the need for Codex standards for spices and herbs became a matter of concern, owing to the increased level of issues in spice trade. There was no Codex committee formed that time exclusively for spices and culinary herbs.

With the approval from the Central government, Spices Board India submitted a proposal to CAC to form a exclusive committee for spices and culinary herbs.

At the 36th session of CAC, which was held at Rome in July 2013, deliberated on the proposal from India and later approved its support of the member countries. It lead to the creation of CSCH, with India as the host country and Spices Board as the secretariat.

Spices Board India, the flagship organisation of the Central government for the export and promotion of spices from the country, has always been concerned about strict standards by the developed countries, and hence has taken keen interest in harmonising the disparate standards for spices which exist all over the world.
 
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