Spices Board To Bring Farmers Under One Umbrella

Kochi, March 28 | Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
The UNDP-World Bank Spice Project undertaken under the aegis of Spices Board way back in 1999 seems to have gone a long way with now over 2,500 acres of certified area under organic spice cultivation in Kerala. During the first nine months of this fiscal the earnings from organic spice export was to the tune of Rs 4.8 crore said Spices Board director and Project manager for the UNDP-WB project KP Somasekharan.

With around 10 NGOs working in the field and the increase in the volumes could see fierce competition which could lead to a lower price realisation. Organic spices now fetched a premium of up to 100 per cent based on the price of the regular commodity. But fearing that the situation may go out of control with competition among suppliers themselves, Spices Board has undertaken an initiative to bring all the organic spices producers under a common umbrella.

Initial discussions have been held and a sort of a co-operative or joint movement under the leadership of the board was likely to come through, he said. This would be a culmination of the UNDP-WB project. Once the system was in place and things started functioning normally, the board could slowly withdraw and leave things to producers, he added.

Another move for such an association was prompted by the presence of very small farmers in the sector. Individual certification was laborious, costly and difficult. To help small growers, such an association could help in having joint farming, Mr Somasekharan said.

Already, both the white and black pepper varieties, turmeric, ginger and nutmeg from here had found a place in the organic spice export basket. In the case of nutmeg, the issue of aflotoxins during 2,000 had seen rejections of several foreign consignments. This was when Indian nutmeg succeeded in finding a place in the world market.

Organic farming, for which certification was farm-based, has seen a variety of crops being grown in the area. This helped several crops come into the export basket, he said. A few NGOs like the Peerumade Development Society, Wayanad Social Service Society, Hycos in Wayanad, Infam, Poabs and corporates like the Tatas, AVT and the Casino group of Hotels have entered the arena.

The Spices Board initiative for integrated pest management (IPM) in the chilli farms in Andhra Pradesh a decade ago had proved beneficial, he said. From the use of pesticides 20-25 times during a crop season, the IPM has succeeded in bringing it down to less than 10 and also succeeded in avoiding deadly pesticides. Incidentally, the yields were better and the premiums were around 20 to 30 per cent. The board was considering extending the programme to include organic farming in chilli in the backdrop of the success of the IPM as the growing health consciousness would make only organic products acceptable in a few years, Mr Somasekharan said.