ITC Executive Director inaugurates third International Spice Conference in Jaipur (en)
‘Disruption, if harnessed and used to empower the base of the agriculture pyramid, can bring tremendous economic and social progress,’ said Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Arancha González, in her inaugural address at the third International Spice Conference (ISC 2018). Held from 4-7 February in Jaipur, India, the theme of the conference was “Managing Disruptions through Transformation and Collaboration”.
The fast-evolving global business environment, and the need to collaborate and manage changes in the spices sector, was at the heart of the ISC 2018 agenda. The three-day conference discussed effective strategies to foster sustainable farming, improve the livelihood of spice farmers, address industry challenges, food safety concerns and demand-supply imbalances. Over 45 speakers and 750 delegates from nearly 50 countries, including industry leaders, representatives of international spice associations, policy-makers, farmers and end users, participated in the conference.
ISC 2018 was hosted by the All India Spices Exporters’ Forum (AISEF), whose members account for about 80 per cent of spice exports from India, in association with the Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI). Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Prakash Namboodiri, Chairman of AISEF, Shaji Varghese, President of the CCCI and Surampudi Sivakumar, Group Head of Agri Business, ITC Limited were among those present at the opening ceremony.
‘Disruption is nothing new to spice farmers. Typically small-scale, they have long had to cope with volatile prices and production losses due to plant disease and unexpected weather. But the pace of change is accelerating,’ said Ms. González in her address. She explained how ITC, through its Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) project, is working directly with small and medium-sized enterprises in the spices sector in India and Africa to improve incomes and livelihoods through increased trade and investment.
González pointed to the example of one farmer in Rwanda who was part of the ITC-led delegation in Jaipur. ‘Giscard used to grow tomatoes, but found himself unable to make ends meet when prices fell in the local market. Today, Giscard is a chilli exporter. He leads 23 young smallholders who are expected to generate over US$ 150,000 in revenue by the close of this financial year.’ In 2016, ITC brought Akay Flavours, an Indian company, to Rwanda; the SITA team has been working with them and the local farmers, including Giscard, on a chilli pilot scheme to bring production to the 1000-tonne break-even threshold in stages.
AISEF has also embraced SITA and the potential it offers. ‘In line with the theme of the conference, AISEF has been looking at working with countries that are a new origin for spices – to develop the sector, using expertise from India and some of our international partners, and export globally from there,’ said Ramkumar Menon, Chairman of the World Spice Organisation and a member of the Management Committee of AISEF. ‘It is in that view that we partnered with SITA, which works in East Africa. The region offers great potential for spices, particularly Rwanda with its fertile soil and zero pesticide-residue.’