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N-E spice trade yet to get its due

Guwahati, June 10: Every time Naimuddin from Karimganj thinks of exporting dry ginger to Bangladesh, he ends up sending ginger flakes instead.

The reason: There are no drying facilities in the Northeast for spices, which ultimately leads to traders not getting value for their produce.

“I have exported 500-600 metric tonnes of ginger flakes to Bangladesh. I wanted to export dry ginger but could not do so as there are no drying facilities here which is a big impediment,” Naimuddin told The Telegraph.

Drying is important for sustaining ginger quality and also to increase its shelf life.

Naimuddin is a registered exporter from the Northeast under the Spices Board who has been exporting ginger for the last several years now.

For Naimuddin and others who stay in Karimganj, exporting to Bangladesh is the best option as the transportation costs are less.

In fact, the spice sector in the region could have really worked wonders had it not been for the lack of infrastructure and other support. There are 46 exporters in the region, barring a handful who do not export.

Naimuddin said it was true that many exporters did not export because of problems like not getting a market and high transportation costs.

In fact, the value of spices export to Bangladesh and Myanmar from the Northeast is only Rs 6.4 crore. Export takes place mainly through Moreh, Karimganj, Dawki and the figures are the ones provided by land customs stations.

The main spices grown commercially in the region are ginger, turmeric (lakadong), black pepper (bird’s eye chilli) and large cardamom. Native to the hills of Meghalaya, the lakadong variety is characterised by its high curcumin content and is extensively used in the extraction of curcumin and manufacture of turmeric oleoresin. Bird’s eye chillies grown in Mizoram are characterised by their extremely small size when mature (2-3cm and very high pungency).

Bhut jolokia (chilli) has become a big hit and the Assam government is taking steps to start largescale cultivation.

Brahma said of late, exporters were coming from north and south India to the Northeast to purchase spices, mainly ginger and lakadong turmeric. “There is a huge demand for spices like ginger which are not available locally to these traders and hence they come to the Northeast. As far as I know, they are buying in bulk,” he added. Bird’s eye chilli is also in great demand.

Though the official figures for ginger production is 43,089 metric tonnes, there is no value addition, given that products like ginger paste and others could have been made.

Spices Board, under the ministry of commerce, is the flagship organisation for the development and worldwide promotion of Indian spices. The board is an international link between Indian exporters and the importers abroad. The board has been spearheading activities for excellence of Indian spices involving every segment of the industry.

A source said the Northeast did not get much help from the board, which, in turn, is affecting its potential.

The involvement of middlemen is another big hindrance in the sector as there are innumerable tiers of middlemen/brokers between the farm and the consumer. “The middleman is there as there is no government agency to take care of the farmers and the latter have to take help from brokers to sell their produce,” a source said.

Officials said the rate of subsidy needed to be revised and increased, the present number of Spices Board offices in the region should be increased and suitable slicing, boiling and polishing devices for spices should be identified for the region and included under the board’s assistance programmes.

Another source said exposure training should be taken up for providing information on marketing to the spice traders as well as farmers for better linkage and marketing.


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