Indian turmeric to dominate global spice market

Kochi, Jan 31 | Updated: Feb 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
Indian turmeric is expected to dominate the world spice market besides chilli this year. India has a major say in the two curry or sauce ingredients outside chilli - turmeric and coriander - and was expected to have a higher turmeric production this year while inclement weather could pull down the coriander crop, according to Mr Kirandip Swani of Swani Corporation at the World Spice Congress in Chennai last week.

On the export front, turmeric faced stiff competition from the lower Myanmar grades and a very high domestic consumption left very little coriander for export.

The overall turmeric production in India was between 3.65 lakh tonne and 4.95 lakh depending upon the year. But with production having a direct relationship to prices, a price drop saw production take a hit the following year and growers did not hesitate to discard the spice if prices were not remunerative as the crop took about six months to mature and post-harvest activities were labour intensive.

While the Erode, Cuddapah, Salem and Rajapuri variety often fetched a higher price, the Alleppey turmeric with its high curcumin content moved independently and was exported mainly to the US. West Asia was the main importing country accounting for nearly half of the average export of 35,000 tonne. But as these markets were highly price sensitive, Indian exports had to compete with the lower grades from Myanmar.

Fortunately, while chilli had the issue of Sudan red leading to recalls, there was no case as yet of any listed pesticide detected in Indian turmeric. Though India was not a major player in the export scenario of coriander despite being the largest producer, it had a say in the South East Asian region and South Africa. The Indian variety did suffer the disadvantage of lower volatile oils compared to the Mediteranean and East European origins which made it to the US and Europe.

In the case of other seed spices like fennel, fenugreek and celery, there was stiff competition from material from other origins. In the case of fennel grown here which had a sweeter taste, the crop last year was just 33,000 tonne with a reasonable carryover stock of 10,000 tonne and an export of 7,000 tonne. This year, the crop was expected to be higher at 50,000 tonne with an average domestic consumption of 35,000. Celery seed production remained at 6,000 tonne for the last few years and the oleoresin industry consumed around 1,500 tonne.