Jodhpur, Rajasthan: Rajasthan and Gujarat together form the Seed Spices Bowl of India, contributing major shares in global production. India faces stiff competition in the international markets in exports of seed spices particularly cumin and fennel. Quality issue is another challenge. To resolve these issues in the western Rajasthan cluster, mainly producing cumin, nagauri paan methi and isabgol, the different stakeholders came together for a virtual meet. The webinar titled “Establishing An Integrated Value Chain For Export of Seed Spices From Jodhpur-An Interface With Key Stakeholders” saw a holistic presentation of different perspectives to address various facets for increasing seed spices production and export.
The discussions entailed the current practices, policy paradigm, processing capability, APMC’s provisions, infrastructure, and custom related matters at Thar Dry port ICD to facilitate export of seed spices from Jodhpur. The experts discussed steps to improve growers’ livelihood, job creation for rural youth, farmer producer organisation (FPO) based aggregation, improving farmers’ income, sustainable production and export promotion of seed spices from Jodhpur.
The quality brainstorming session underscored significant areas of improvement and insightful suggestions from industry experts to improve the situation. PM Suresh Kumar, Director (Marketing), Spices Board India, Cochin, while delivering welcome speech, highlighted the share of seed spices (22%) in total exports (US$ 3 billion) and contribution of Rajasthan in exports of seed spices. He also mentioned the different initiatives taken by the Board for the development of seed spices industry in the state such as spices parks.
D Sathiyan, Chairman-cum-Secretary, Spices Board, in his inaugural speech, emphasised the need for improving the product’s quality by promoting acceptable agricultural practices (GAP) and hygiene practices among farmers. He also highlighted Agricultural Export Policy (AEP) of Government of India for boosting export of seed spices from the Jodhpur, Nagaur, Barmer and Jaisalmer districts cluster under the cumin cluster programme.
Dr. CD Mayee, President, South Asia Biotechnology Centre, Jodhpur who is implementing Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and South Asia Biotech Centre’s (SABC) joint initiative Biotech KISAN hub for Western Dry Region emphasised the need to teach the farmers about best practices to obtain a high-quality produce.
Spices Board members; Anu Shree Poonia and Bhojaraj Saraswat have urged the need for integrated and co-ordinated efforts from all the departments to make Rajasthan the next spice export hub.
Besides improving production, several other aspects are also needed to be worked out simultaneously to enhance the sector’s gains. Dr. Gopal Lal, Director, ICAR-National Research Centre on Seed Spices, (NRCSS), Ajmer, presented the roadmap for the next five years comprising of activities for conserving seed spice biodiversity, enhancing the genetic potential of seed spices for yield and quantity, enhancing the resilience of seed spices to climate change, plant health management, upgrading seed spices quality and value addition and empowering farmers.
Developing further on the plan, ML Gupta, Director – Post Harvest Management at Rajasthan State Agriculture Marketing Board (RSAMB), underlined the need to build an ecosystem for the region’s overall seed spice industry through multiple illustrious policies and aids under the state government.
Dr. Shrishail Kulloli, Spices Board India, Jodhpur, suggested the strengthening of the state measures by connecting the entrepreneurs, organising virtual buyer-seller meets which bring different stakeholders from industry on a single platform, involving qualified young youth and promoting more establishments such as spice parks to improve the spices industry in the state
Dr. Bhagirath Choudhary, Director, South Asia Biotechnology Centre, Jodhpur and Board Member, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, pressed the need to utilise the spice parks as physical infrastructure for local operations and as an opportunity to expand exports. He also suggested getting the produce tested for quality and pesticides residue by establishing a laboratory to ensure food safety to the end consumer. Further, Jodhpur is also becoming a potential global hub for Isabgol, for which, the business entities should come forth. Other helpful steps include optimising FPOs, promoting aggregation at farm-gate and promoting organic certification as part of DBT-SABC Biotech KISAN Hub initiative. By ensuring organic certification of produce, the farmers can sell to the buyers looking for certified organic produce and pave the way for contract farming.
Although the present infrastructure in Jodhpur provides sufficient opportunities to grow as an export destination, its full potential remains underutilised. Abhishek Narayan Sinha, Assistant Commissioner (Custom), ICD-TDP, Jodhpur, brought forth the puzzling issue of diverse export destinations for seed spices contrasting with low export volumes from Jodhpur. Also, adulterated consignments exported by unfaithful traders result in stringent custom procedures and compromise customers’ trust.
Purushottam Mundra, Chairman, Jeera Mandi, Jodhpur, pressed the need for well-timed programmes to guide farmers in acceptable agricultural practices, establish more industries in the area and quality testing facilities in mandis.
The speakers like Sunil Parihar Chairman, Jagshanti Industries Group suggested the need for providing real-time guidance about seed spices, packaging, storage and, transportation to exporters, creating good infrastructure facilities at APMC, Jodhpur, and enhancing financial support. Thus, the productive brainstorming sessions laid the base for further development and collaborations between farmers, industry experts, and government authorities to take the sector to new heights so that Jodhpur could emerge as an export hub of seed species and Isabgol in Rajasthan.