A spicy mission to India

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By Candice Ungerer

SITA and Ethiopia-Netherlands Trade for Agricultural Growth (ENTAG) share a common goal — improve the productive capacity of the Ethiopian spices sector through knowledge, technology and best practice exchange and link them with buyers from India, the largest spices consumer in the world.

This presented an opportunity for SITA and ENTAG to work together, leveraging complementarities by pooling knowledge and networks. Successful partnerships can enhance the impact of trade and investment projects and recognising this, SITA works with partners across a number of initiatives.

From 1-7 April 2017, 16 Ethiopian spices companies and 2 Ethiopian government officials visited Kerala and Tamil Nadu provinces in southern India. The mission was organised by the Ethiopia-Netherlands Trade for Agricultural Growth (ENTAG) programme and funded by the Government of the Netherlands.

The purpose of the mission was to familiarise Ethiopian companies with the Indian approach to post-harvest practices, quality assurance and export processes. SITA’s eminent spices consultant, and former Executive Director of the Spices Board India, Dr. C.K. George, accompanied the mission to share his expertise and to ensure support from SITA’s institutional partners in India.

“The mission was a great success, owing in part to the important work of Dr. C.K. George and the great cooperation between SITA and ENTAG” commented mission coordinator, Mr. Auke Boere of ENTAG.

The mission included a visit to the Spices Board India near the old port town of Fort Kochi. Kochi has been the centre of the spices trade since the beginning of the Common Era. There, the Ethiopian delegates learnt how strong government support for research, production and marketing could contribute to higher export growth and a more prosperous industry.

Among its other services, the Spices Board India has set up a world class Quality Evaluation Laboratory with the most up-to-date equipment for quality testing to ensure India’s spices for export are of the highest standards.

India continues to be the largest producer and exporter of quality spices in the world. In 2015-16, India exported over 843,000 tonnes of spices to the value of US$2.48bn.

Addisu with first quality fingers

Addisu with first quality fingers

The Ethiopian participants visited an Indian company, Synthite, the world’s largest producer of value-added spices. According to the company, their success is built on superior processing practices, backward integration to the farm level, an emphasis on meeting high quality standards and a sustainable supply-chain approach. In addition to conventional solvent extraction techniques, Synthite also uses specialised technologies including Supercritical CO2 extraction and Centritherm to obtain higher quality products. Ethiopian delegates on the mission recognised that these types of technologies could be adopted to improve the quality of spices originating from Africa.

The mission learnt about the advanced post-harvest treatment of spices from the Dutch company Nedspice based in Kochi. Nedspice has become a highly reliable supplier for top quality turmeric, black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, chilli and other spices to the Indian market. Nedspice combines advanced post-harvest treatment and machine processing with a lean-and-clean factory layout. The company has created backward linkages and works with farmers to source the right quality of spices for the factory.

A visit to the Erode turmeric fields and machine processing centres in Tamil Nadu provided the mission with insights into harvesting and post-harvest treatment of spices such as techniques for cleaning harvested turmeric, boiling both bulbs and fingers, as well as sun drying and polishing.

Steam boiling tumeric fingers

Steam boiling turmeric fingers

The mission included a B2B session at the Crowne Plaza, Kochi with over 25 Indian companies attending. The session was deemed a success with business surely to take place between companies from both countries according Mr. Boere.

The cooperative spirit displayed throughout the Indian business community inspired the Ethiopian participants to consider further collaboration to develop Ethiopia into a high-quality and high-volume country for spices export.

Good trade results cannot be achieved by a single company or industry operating alone. Successful partnerships, across sectors and geographic regions, enhance the effectiveness of farming, production and export through combined efforts and more efficient use of resources. In turn, this promotes innovation and new ways of thinking from the farm to the factory.

The ENTAG mission showed that sharing ideas and good practices as well as resources is a simple but effective way to promote trade and a spicier relationship between Africa and India.

SITA and ENTAG will continue to look into opportunities for cooperation to support the development of the Ethiopian agricultural sector.

Voices of SITA
Voices of SITA
This blog provides a window into the SITA project. Through stories from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, this blog showcases the project’s progress and impact.