by Devika Jyothi
For the first time at the International Spice Conference (ISC), this year held at Kovalam in Kerala, India from 12-14 February 2017, Africa showcased itself as the destination for sustainable spices production. Through Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA), the International Trade Centre (ITC) facilitated the participation of seven members from the spices sector in Ethiopia and Rwanda, including government representatives and spices producers and exporters.
The three-day conference was hosted by All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) in association with the Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The theme of the conference was “21st Century Spice Industry: Disrupt or be Disrupted”. The event focused on effective strategies and innovative technologies to improve the livelihood of spice farmers, address spice industry challenges and foster sustainable growth. Over 800 delegates, including 250 international delegates took part in the conference.
Opening the first technical session at the Conference, ‘Spice Cultivation: Challenges Ahead’, ITC’s SITA Coordinator, Govind Venuprasad, delivered a presentation titled ‘Sustainable Spice Cultivation: New Frontiers.’ Mr. Venuprasad presented two SITA target countries, Ethiopia and Rwanda, as the potential hubs for sustainable spices production.
‘Africa is usually presented as a destination for the brave; however, we believe that Africa is ‘The Place’ for the smart investor. Despite the challenges, Africa offers enough opportunities for spices production to meet the ever growing global demand for premium quality spices,’ Mr Venuprasad said. While the soil and climate in Africa are favourable for growing spices, the huge opportunities in these widely traded commodities are yet to be fully explored and benefitted from.
Elaborating on the opportunities and challenges of spices production in East Africa, Mr. Venuprasad explained SITA’s response to help farmers in Ethiopia and Rwanda address the challenges. The key highlights included interventions by SITA for improving agronomic practices to address the bacterial wilt in ginger cultivation in Ethiopia and post-harvest management in turmeric production; as well as facilitating B2B meetings to create market linkages between Indian importers and East African spice exporters. The presentation concluded with a discussion on the investment opportunities for spices production and processing in East Africa.
Subsequently, a meeting including a Question and Answer (Q&A) session was held where representatives from the Indian spices sector interacted with the East African delegation and SITA representatives to understand more on the trade and investment opportunities, the specific spices grown in these regions and the global market potential, challenges in spices production and processing as well as the government support for development of the spices sector in East Africa.
SITA also had a booth at the exhibition organised alongside the conference where the participating members from Ethiopia and Rwanda displayed their range of spice products. The booth attracted numerous visitors with two companies from Ethiopia securing orders for turmeric and cumin.
‘This has been an eye-opening experience for me, commented Habtamu R., Business Manager of Horizon Spice Plantation, Ethiopia. ‘I have been in the spices sector for several years now. However, I was not aware of the scale of spices demand globally and the market potential. This participation gives me the confidence to expand my business as well as to look for new partnerships. I have received potential enquires and could establish new business which I will be working on in the coming weeks,’ he added.
The International Spice Conference was in several ways a first of its kind opportunity for the participants to understand the different spices and efficient production methods, the global market potential and ways to access international markets, the potential challenges and ways to address them to successfully produce and market spices internationally.