Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Spices Board discussing the setting of ETO Limits with CODEX


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Spices Board, CODEX, India’s Spice Trade

Why in the News?

  • The Spices Board has proactively engaged with CODEX, the international food standards authority, to address the pressing issue of ethylene oxide (ETO) contamination in spices.
    • This initiative follows recent recalls of certain branded spices exported from India to Hong Kong and Singapore due to concerns regarding ETO contamination.
    • Concerns over spice quality have also been raised by countries like the US, New Zealand, and Australia, prompting ongoing evaluations of Indian Spice Imports.

Back2Basics:  Spices Board of India

  • The merger of the erstwhile Cardamom Board and Spices Export Promotion Council on 26th February 1987, under the Spices Board Act 1986 led to the formation of the Spice Board of India.
  • The Board functions as an International link between the Indian exporters and the importers abroad with a Nodal Ministry of Commerce & Industry.
  • Headquartered in Kochi, it has regional laboratories in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Tuticorin, Kandla and Guntur.
  • Main Functions:
    • It promotes organic production, processing, and certification of spices.
    • Responsible for the overall development of Cardamom.
    • Focuses on post-harvest improvement programs for improving the quality of the 52 scheduled spices for export.
    • These programs are included under the head ‘Export Oriented Production’.


    • The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an inter-governmental food standards body established jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 1963.
      • Objective: Protecting consumer’s health and ensuring fair practices in food trade.
    • The Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognizes Codex standards, guidelines, and recommendations as reference standards.
  • Members:
  • Currently, the CAC has 189 Codex Members made up of 188 Member Countries and the EU.
    • India became a member in 1964.

CODEX Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs

    • CODEX committee (CCSCH) was formed in 2013 with the support of more than a hundred countries with India as the host country and the Spices Board as the Secretariat for organizing the committee sessions.
  • Objectives:
    • To consult with other International Organisations for the standards development process in the spice market.
    • To develop and expand worldwide standards.
  • Since its inception, the CODEX Committee has been on a positive path in developing harmonized global standards for worldly herbs and spices.

India’s push for Permissible ETO Limits

  • Advocacy for Limits: India has advocated for the establishment of limits for ETO usage, recognizing the variance in regulations across different countries.
    • CODEX, thus far, has not prescribed any limit for ETO usage, and India has submitted a proposal for standardizing ETO testing protocols.
  • Focus on Safety: While acknowledging the carcinogenic nature of ETO when used excessively, efforts to prevent contamination have been intensified.
    • Notably, India’s sample failure rate in spices exports is less than 1% in major markets, underscoring the industry’s commitment to quality and safety standards.

Spice Market of India:

  • Production:
    • Major producing states: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
    • The production of different spices has been growing rapidly over the last few years. During 2022-23, the export of spices from India stood at US$ 3.73 billion from US$ 3.46 billion in 2021-22.
    • India produces about 75 of the 109 varieties which are listed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
  • Major Produced and Exported Spices by India: Pepper, cardamom, chili, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, celery, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, nutmeg & mace, curry powder, spice oils, and oleoresins.
    • Out of these spices, chili, cumin, turmeric, ginger, and coriander make up about 76% of the total production.
  • Export: In 2023-24, India’s spice exports totaled $4.25 billion, accounting for a 12% share of the global spice exports. (till February 2024 data).
    • India exported spices and spice products to 159 destinations worldwide as of 2023-24. The top destinations among them were China, the USA, Bangladesh, the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the UK, and Sri Lanka. (which comprises more than 70% of the total exports).



[2019] Among the agricultural commodities imported by India, which one of the following accounts for the highest imports in terms of value in the last five years?

(a) Spices

(b) Fresh fruits

(c) Pulses

(d) Vegetable oils

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