The spice market is growing strongly, with the covid-19 pandemic as an accelerator. Countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands offer great opportunities to exporters of ginger, unground pepper, dried pepper, turmeric and cloves. New markets in Africa are being prepared for trade with the EU and the Netherlands.
As the fast-growing spice markets are seen as an important contributor to a healthy lifestyle, growth is expected for a longer period of time (CBI website, 15 March 2021). In addition, the demand for sustainable spices is increasing, due to growing attention to socio-economic aspects such as fair income and welfare, but also to environmental aspects such as soil protection and moderate use of harmful pesticides. Existing production areas cannot meet the demand for (sustainably produced) spices. This offers opportunities for the development of new sources of income for farmers in new areas.
New Origin Sustainable Spices
In the New Origin Sustainable Spices (NOSS) project, Précon Food Management consultants work together with Dutch and other European importers and local business organisations and traders in Tanzania and Madagascar to build supply chains for spices. In Tanzania the focus is on cinnamon, cardamom, dried ginger and chili, where in Madagascar the focus is also on cloves. The project is coordinated by the Netherlands African Business Council and is funded by trade partners HQO, J.S. Polak, Aromatum, Agri Exim and Kagan, Précon Food Management and the Dutch central government. It expires in mid-2022.
Quality in the chain
Customers are looking for new cultivation areas, but that is not easy. New areas often lack farmers with the right experience to grow and dry the spices. There is also a shortage of traders who can process, sort, pack and ship the spices under the right conditions after harvesting. Before a batch arrives in Rotterdam, a whole chain of guarantees and inspections must ensure that the quality, food safety and finances are guaranteed. Willem van Noort, one of the traders involved in the project, could write a book about the latter, and the search for good growers and motivated traders.
Food safety and quality assurance
Let us just focus on the first two aspects. Guaranteeing food safety and quality in the spice chain often goes hand in hand. If growers and processors work according to Good Agricultural (and Hygiene) Practices, the yield is maximised and the product characteristics are optimal and above all predictable in the rest of the chain. However, each player in the chain must take responsibility for this: one container full of spices comes from hundreds of growers. High quality has been achieved with great effort, but can easily be ruined by one grower. This concerns, for example, pesticide residues and the presence of mould toxins, components that are not visible to the naked eye but which, in low concentrations, are very harmful if consumed throughout a lifetime. It must be taken into account that one bad experience of European importers with individual exporters damages the reputation of the entire export market for a long time.
Précon Food Management works in this project on product requirements, food safety and HACCP. Together with facilitator NABC, local partners and a local team, training programmes were set up for exporters, traders, processors and farmers. Due to the covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions, the training approach was significantly modified. On-site e-learning, online workshops, self-assessments and individual sessions offered a solution. In this so-called blended-learning, the focus was on GMP, ISO 22000, PRPs, HACCP and the development of the quality manual. In addition, the NOSS team has invested in creating richly illustrated manuals and specifications for spice cultivation and processing. In addition, the team is working on instructional videos showing the production of cinnamon and cardamom, from grower to Dutch importer.
Although the daily changing situation around the covid-19 pandemic was challenging, the work with farmers, processors and exporters is slowly but surely paying off. By investing in motivated individual farmers, opportunities are created to start businesses and enable spice chains in Tanzania and Madagascar to access regional and international markets and better respond to market changes. The enthusiasm of the partners will not be lacking.
“For Kagan Spices, the NOSS project has contributed in several ways to the establishment of spice exports. Setting quality standards for cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and chillies created a level playing field for (new) suppliers and customers in Europe. Support with post-harvest processing techniques and equipment enabled Tanzanian spice exporters to meet these quality standards. Local staff provided hands-on advice and support to new exporters, both for cultivation and processing and for export logistics and documentation.”
Willem van Noort, Kagan Spice