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April 01 , 2015
Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kerala, is into research that proves favourable for environment and welfare of farmers. Dr M Anandaraj, director, Indian Institute of Spices Research, in an email interaction with Rashmi Nair, spoke about the current growth in the spices industry, the challenges that it is facing and other key concerns. Excerpts:

How much is the total spice market in India in terms of volume and value? At what rate  is it growing?
Spices production during 2013-14 was 5.9 mt from 3.16 mha compared to 1.9 mt from 2.0 mha during 1991-92, it worked out the growth rate of 210.52% in production and 57.75% in area.

During the same time, our export has increased from 1,42,104 tonne to 8,12,250 tonne accounting the growth rate of 475.10%. In terms of value, it was Rs 38,097 lakh during 1991-92 and increased to Rs 13,73,539.26 lakh with a growth rate of 3505%.

During 1991-92, out of 1.9 mt production, only 0.142 mt was exported which accounted around 7.5% or the production, whereas, in 2013-14, out of 5.9 mt production we exported only 0.812 mt that accounts around 13.76%.

What are the various spices that are exported and to which countries, how much is the quantity?
India exports more than 50 varieties of spices. The major importer of Indian spices is the United States. The other major destinations include countries in the European Union and the Middle-East. During 2013-14, a total of 8.17 lakh tonne of spices and spice products valued at Rs 13735.39 crore (US$2.3 billion) were exported from the country. The export of spices and spice products showed robust growth during the last five years with a growth rate of nearly 12 per cent in terms of export volume.

What are the various technologies used in plants, are they made in India or imported?
All spices cultivation and production technologies available in India are either developed by ICAR-IISR, Kozhikode; ICAR-National Research Centre for Seed Spices, Ajmer; All India Coordinated Research Project on Spices (ICAR-IISR); or state agricultural universities.

What are the other technological advancements for spices to improve quality and quick processing?
The ICAR- IISR has very recently established a high-end spice processing facility at Experimental farm, Peruvannamuzhi, Kerala, India. The unit was commissioned in July 2014 and is now ready for operation. This unit was envisaged to promote entrepreneurship development and improve the competitiveness of the spice industry through scientific training, capacity building and implementation of ISO standards for spice processing. The unit is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for cleaning and grading black pepper and production of curry powders. This unit will not only cater to the needs of the farmers in the spice growing belt where it is situated but will also serve as a model unit for the benefit of spice growers and entrepreneurs all over the world. ICAR-IISR will soon be organising an entrepreneurship development programme (EDP) for stakeholders to identify suitable entrepreneurs for steering forward the operations of the processing facility.

Some advancements in spices processing at ICAR-IISR are:
(i)    E-nose for quantifying the oil content of cardamom.
(ii)    Mechanical threshing to obtain black pepper at the rate of 450 kg/ hour with less than 1-2% damage.
(iii)    Steam cooker to boil turmeric which saves fuel and time for curing.
(iv)    Pulper for depulping retted black pepper for making white papper.
(v)    Mechanical drying to prevent aflatoxin contamination in nutmeg and mace.
(vi) Solar tunnel drier for faster and hygienic drying.

What are the new trends found in Indian spices in regard to consumption, plantation and so on?
Indian spices are famous for their captive flavour and aroma lending Indian food its exquisite taste. These spices are used widely in the areas of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, perfumery, toiletry and cosmetics. Over the years, the Indian spice community has evolved and matured as a technology-based, quality-conscious, customer-centric, market-driven industry. This makeover has led to a rapidly growing variety of value-added spices in ground, crushed, blended, dehydrated forms in bulk, in brine and in consumer packs (curry mixes, natural food colours, spice extracts, mint oils, menthol crystals, menthol powder and several spice-based industrial raw materials). Indian spice oils and oleoresins continue to dominate the international processed food market. The export of processed spices like curry powder and spice oils, oleoresins, mint products and curry powders and spice blends account for about 60 percent of the total exports.

Is India efficient in storage and logistics for spices?
Yes,  Spices Board is setting up exclusive spice parks in major growing / marketing centres in the country. These parks are equipped with scientific infrastructure facilities for cleaning, grading, processing, packaging and warehousing. The objective is to produce high-quality value-added spices. Value addition will help the farmers to earn better price for their products. The parks at Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh) and Puttady (Kerala) are already working. New parks are coming up in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Sivagangai (Tamil Nadu), Mehsana (Gujarat), Jhalawar and Kota (Rajasthan), and Guna (Madhya Pradesh). The parks will offer land within the complex to exporters to establish processing units, from which spices will be directly exported. By the end of the decade, India will probably be the only processing hub for spices in the world.

What are the post-harvest technology used in the spice industry?
(i) Black pepper Threshing
The berries are separated from the spike usually by trampling with human legs. Mechanical threshers with capacities varying from 200 kg/h to 1200 kg//h are available which can thresh quickly and provide cleaner products.

Apart from major quality attributes such as pungency and aroma, the appearance with respect to its colour (brown/ black) is of importance for use of black pepper as a spice in the whole or ground form. Since phenols are known to contribute to browning / blackening of finished pepper corns, the nature and distribution of phenolic compounds are very important. Blackening of fresh green pepper is due to enzymatic oxidation of (3, 4-dihydroxy phenyl) ethanol glycoside by an o-diphenol oxidase (PPO) present in the fresh fruit. It was proved that conversion of green pepper to black pepper by the drying process was accompanied by a 75% decrease in total phenolic content and a complete loss of o-diphenol oxidase oxidisable phenolic fraction which suggest a major role for enzymatic phenolic oxidation during pepper blackening. Dipping harvested green pepper for a minute in boiling water enhances this action and provides a shining black colour to the produce.

Pepper has moisture content of 60 to 70% at harvest, which should be brought to safer levels of 10-11% by adequate drying.  The dry recovery varies from 29 to 43% depending on the variety. Sun drying is the conventional method followed for drying of black pepper. Driers developed by various agencies such as solar and mechanical dryers are highly efficient for drying pepper.

Cleaning and grading
The threshed and dried pepper has extraneous matter like spent spikes, pinheads, stones, soil particles etc. mixed with it. Cleaning and grading are basic operations that enhance the value of the produce and help to get higher returns. On a small scale, winnowing and hand picking remove most of these impurities.

Using sieves, cleaned pepper, is sifted into different grades based on size. These standards are being implemented rigorously under the Compulsory Agmark Grading Scheme, though Agmark grading is not essential for export of spices from India. The export specifications are determined by the importing countries. The Agmark grades are as follows:
  • Malabar Garbled (MG Grades 1 and 2) Black Pepper
  • Malabar Ungarbled (MUG Grades 1 and 2) Black Pepper
  • Tellicherry Garbled Black Pepper Special Extra Bold (TGSEB)
  • Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold (TGEB)
  • Tellicherry Garbled (TG)
  • Pin heads (PH Grade Grade special and Grade1)
  • Garbled light Pepper (GL Special, GL Grades 1 and 2)
  • Ungarbled Light Pepper (UGL Special, UGL Grades 1and 2)
  • Black Pepper (Non-specified)
Packing and storage
Black pepper is hygroscopic in nature and absorption of moisture from air, notably during rainy season with high humidity may result in mould and insect infestation. Before storage it is to be dried to around 10% moisture. Dried whole pepper is packed and stored in double burlap bags with polythene liners of 0.076 mm or more in thickness or in laminated HP bags in order to prevent further mould development and to inhibit growth of microorganisms and insects.

Value-added products from black pepper
1) Green pepper based products 2) Black pepper and white pepper based products 3) Pepper by-products.

Green pepper based products
Major green pepper based products are canned green pepper, green pepper in brine, bulk-packaged green pepper in brine, cured green pepper, frozen green pepper, freeze dried green pepper, dehydrated green pepper, green pepper oil, green pepper pickle, mixed green pepper pickle, green pepper sauce and green pepper-flavoured products.

Black pepper-based products
Black pepper based products include whole black pepper, sterilised black pepper, ground black pepper, cryoground black pepper powder, pepper oil and oleoresin.

White pepper-based products

White pepper is the white inner corn obtained after removing the outer skin or pericarp of pepper berries. The traditional method of preparation of white pepper is by retting. If running water is not available, the alternative is to use fermentation tanks wherein the water is changed every day for 7-10 days. Retting converts only ripe and fully mature berries to white pepper. Conversion of harvested berries to white pepper gives a recovery of 22 to 25%. Various agencies have standardised techniques to convert green pepper to white pepper using microbial consortium.

White pepper is preferred to black pepper in light coloured preparations such as sauces, cream soups etc. where dark coloured particles are undesirable. It imparts modified natural flavour to food stuff.

Encapsulated spice powder

In the production of spray dried spices, the essential oils and or oleoresins are dispersed in the edible gum solution, generally gum acacia or gelatin, spray dried and then blended with dry base such as salt or dextrose. As water evaporates from the spray dried particles, the gum forms a protective film around each particle of extractive. The protective capsule prevents the spice extractive from evaporating and from being exposed to oxygen.

Other products
Pepper-flavoured products like pepper mayonnaise, pepper cookies and pepper tofu are some of the products prepared from white or black pepper. Pepper extract is a valuable adjunct in the flavouring of sausages, canned meat, soups, table sauces and certain beverages and liquor. Black pepper preservative is valued as an essential preservative for meats and other perishable foods. It is therefore largely used by meat packers and in canning, pickling, baking, confectionery and in the preparation of beverages. Pepper oil is used in perfumery and also for manufacturing soaps. Many products, in which pepper is a major ingredient, have been developed such as lemon pepper, garlic pepper, sauces and marinades that have pepper as the main component. Curry powders and spice blends for various culinary uses have pepper has one of the major ingredient.

(ii) Cardamom

Cardamom fruits mature in about 120 days after flowering. Due to prolonged flowering period, cardamom capsules ripen successively at 10-15 days intervals over an extended period of 8 months (from August to March).  Generally harvesting is carried out at an interval of 15-30 days and completed in 8-9 rounds by handpicking.  

Post-harvest processing
Retention of green colour

Immature capsules retain greater intensity of green colour. The harvested capsules carry soil or dirt on their surface and hence they are washed thoroughly in water. The capsules are then treated with 2 per cent sodium carbonate solution for 10 minutes which enables to retain green colour and prevent mould growth.

Curing and drying
Curing may be defined as the process in which the moisture content of freshly harvested cardamom capsules is reduced from 70-80% to 11- 12% at an optimum temperature of 45-55oC so as to retain its green colour and volatile oil to a maximum extent.

The cured capsules are graded using sieves of 8, 7.5, 7 and 6 mm. The graded cardamom is stored over a period of time, in double lined polythene bags. Storage rooms should be free from insect damage. Studies have shown that cardamom dried and maintained at or below 10% moisture retains original parrot green colour and avoids mould growth. It is advisable to make use of dried cardamom capsules preferably within 12 months of harvesting.

Value-added products from cardamom
Bleached cardamom

Freshly harvested or dry capsules of cardamom can be used as starting material for bleaching. Sulphur bleaching of dry cardamom capsules is the widely practiced method. Here the capsules are soaked in 2% bleaching powder solution (20 g/l of water) for one hour and spread on wooden trays which are arranged inside airtight chambers. Sulphur-di-oxide is produced by burning sulphur (15 g/kg of capsules) and made to pass over the trays. The process of soaking and drying is to be carried out for 3-4 times depending up on the intensity of white colour required. The bleached cardamom is creamy white or golden yellow in colour.

Decorticated seeds and seed powder

Decorticated cardamom seeds generally fetch a lower price than whole cardamom due to loss of volatile oil during storage and transportation. However, a large portion of the cardamom is imported into Western countries to meet industrial and institutional requirements for bulk supply of powdered cardamom.

Cardamom volatile oil
For volatile oil, steam distillation is preferred and the yield of the volatile oil varies from 3.4-8.6% in seeds and 5.2-11.3% in dried capsules. However, the flavour quality of the oil is attributed by the relative concentrations of alpha terpinyl acetate to that of 1, 8-ciniole. Better aroma quality is contributed by low 1, 8-ciniole and high alpha terpinyl acetate.

Cardamom oleoresin
The total extracts or oleoresins reflect the flavour profile more closely than the volatile oil. The oleoresins also extract non-aromatic fats, waxes, resinoids, colour and other components soluble in the chosen extracting solvent. Oleoresins freed from fat components and prepared as concretes are useful in perfume industries.

Other products
Other products include encapsulated cardamom which is free flowing and having uniform flavour, cardamom tea, cardamom coffee, and cardamom soft drink mix.

(iii)  Ginger

In India normally harvesting of ginger is done from January to April, varying with the locations. The crop is ready for harvest in about 8 months after planting when the leaves turn yellow and start drying up gradually. The clumps are lifted carefully with spade or digging fork and the rhizomes are separated from the dried up leaves, roots and adhering soil. Harvesting is to be done from the sixth month onwards when used as green ginger. The quality of ginger is affected by the stage of the harvest. Harvesting of ginger needs to be scheduled for each end product.

Post-harvest processing

Peeling hastens the process of drying and maintains the epidermal cells of the rhizomes, which contain essential oil responsible for aroma of ginger. Indigenously, peeling is performed by partially scraping the peel of ginger rhizomes with sharpened bamboo splinters. The scrapped or partially peeled rhizomes are put for drying on clean drying yard.     

Traditionally ginger is sun dried in a single layer in open yard. The cleaned and partially peeled ginger with moisture content of about 80% is spread thinly under sun and the moisture content is brought down to 10 to 12% or even less for safe storage. It takes about 10 -15 days for complete drying. The dried ginger presents a brown, irregular wrinkled surface and when broken shows a dark brownish colour. The dry ginger so obtained is known as rough or unbleached ginger. The yield of dry ginger is 19-25% of fresh ginger depending on the variety and the location where it is grown.

Bleaching of ginger

The peeled ginger rhizomes are washed and kept steeped in plain water for 2 to 3 hours. Thereafter, they are taken out and steeped in about 1.5 to 2.0% lime (CaO) solution for about 6 hours. They are then drained and sun dried on mats, barbecues, or on a clean cement floor. This liming or bleaching of ginger not only improves its colour, but also helps to preserve it better. Besides, liming is reported to retard insect infestation.

Value-added products from ginger

Ginger powder
Dried ginger is powdered to a fine mesh-60 (250 microns) to be used in various end products.

Salted ginger

Fresh ginger (with relatively low fibre) harvested at 170-180 days after planting can be used for preparing salted ginger. Tender rhizomes with portion of the pseudo stem is washed thoroughly and soaked in 30% salt solution containing 1% citric acid. After 14 days it is ready for use and can be stored under refrigeration.

Crude fibre

In fully matured ginger crude fibre varies from 3-8%. It is estimated by acid and alkali digestion of ginger powder and what ever remains is considered as fibre.

Ginger oil

Dry ginger on distillation yields 1.5 to 2.5% volatile oil. The main constituent in the oil is zingiberene and contributes to the aroma of the oil.

Ginger oleoresin
Dry ginger powder on treating with organic solvents like acetone, alcohol, ethyl acetate and so on yield a viscous mass that attribute the total taste and smell of the spice. The major non-volatile principal in oleoresin is gingerol. The oleoresin content varies from 4 -10%.    

Ginger-based beverages
Among spices, ginger has the unique distinction of being used in beverages. Built around the central flavour of ginger and supported by other flavours from fruits, other spice and herbs, there are two distinct classes of beverages, ginger beer and ginger ale. The principal difference between these two beverages lies in the rather higher gravity and higher extractives. Ginger beer has a complex flavour and cloudy appearance, whereas ginger ale is valued for its sparklingly clear appearance, distinct lemony-aromatic note on the basis of ginger aroma, high pungency and high carbonation. These two classes of beverages are made in a number of variations to cater to individual market requirements and end uses.

Sweet and salty products can be prepared from fresh ginger like ginger candy, ginger paste, salted ginger, salted ginger, crystallised ginger.

(iv) Turmeric

The turmeric crop is ready for harvesting in about 7 to 9 months after sowing depending upon the variety. In India, sowing takes place between June and July and harvesting is done from February to April. Before harvest, the dry leaves and stem are cut close to the ground. The rhizome bunches are carefully lifted and adhering soil was removed by soaking in water and further cleaned of roots and scales before they are collected in the curing yard.

Post-harvest processing
The traditional method of turmeric processing consists of the following steps washing, boiling/curing, drying, polishing, colouring, packaging and marketing.


Traditionally boiling is done in metal or mud pots with (three-fourth capacity) water for 1 hr to 1.5 hr. Top of the pots are covered with a lid or dry leaves. Boiling process is continued till foams and white foams start coming out. These come out with a special quality of flavour. Rhizomes are tested by pressing with fingers depending on the quantity.

The rhizomes as wholes or cut longitudinally into halves and the fingers are generally cured separately, as cooking time varies with difference in thickness.  Cooking helps in producing a product of fairly uniform colour, due to diffusion. Boiling considerably reduces the drying time both in sun drying and mechanical drying, while the total colour and the volatile oil remained practically the same.  

Drying is slow, taking 10-15 days for completion, when properly dried, the rhizomes became hard, almost horny, brittle and of uniform yellow colour. The moisture content of the dried rhizomes is one of the lowest for spices. Completely dried turmeric holds 6-8 % moisture content.


Hand polishing is by rubbing dried rhizomes against a hard surface.  By this process colour of turmeric becomes bright or shining.  The product is known in trade as ‘polished turmeric.’ 

Mechanical polishing helps to remove scales, rootlets and some of the epidermal layer through the sieve mesh and surrounding the polishing drums and the sieved dust is generally used as manure.  

Better look for exported turmeric is imparted by a dry or wet colouring process.  In the dry process, turmeric powder is added to the polishing drum in the last 10 min. In the wet colouring process, turmeric powder is suspended in water and mixed inside by sprinkling inside the polishing basket. After colouring is complete, these are dried for one week.  

Value-added products from turmeric
India is the global leader in value-added products of turmeric and exports. Value- added products from turmeric include curcuminoids, dehydrated turmeric powder, oils, and oleoresin. Turmeric, like other spices is available as wholes, grinds and oleoresin. The institutional sector in West buys ground turmeric and oleoresins, while in the industrial sector, whole dry turmeric is preferred.

Ground turmeric

Dried turmeric is powdered by disc type attrition mills to obtain 60-80 mesh powder for use in various end products. The rhizomes contain 4-6% of volatile oil and there is a great chance of losing the oil when powdered. Since curcuminoids, the colour constituents of turmeric, deteriorate on exposure to light and to a lesser extent, under heat and oxidative conditions, it is important that ground turmeric is packed in a UV protective packaging and appropriately stored. Powdered turmeric is packed in bulk, in a variety of containers, fibre board drums, multiwalled bags and tin containers. The colour of turmeric was not affected in any of the packaging or storage conditions upto six months. Turmeric powder is a major ingredient in curry powders and pastes.

Turmeric oil
Dried rhizomes and leaves are used industrially to extract the volatile oil. Dried rhizomes contain 5-6% and leaves contain about 1-1.5% oil. It is generally extracted by steam distillation. The peculiar turmeric aroma is imparted by ar-turmerone, the major aroma principle in the oil.

Turmeric Oleoresin
Turmeric oleoresin is the organic extract of turmeric and is added to food items as a spice and colouring agent. Turmeric oleoresin is essentially used in institutional cooking in meat and fish products and certain products such as mustard, pickles and relish formulas, butter and cheese. This is obtained by the solvent extraction of the ground spice with organic solvents like acetone, ethylene dichloride and ethanol for 4-5 hours. It is orange red in colour. Oleoresin yield ranges from 7.9 to 10.4%. Curcumin, the principal colouring matter, forms almost one third of a good quality oleoresin.

Curcumin or curcuminoids concentrate, for use as a food colour is included in the list of colours with a restricted use because it has been allotted a low ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) of 0-1.0 mg/kg body weight/day. Curcumin gives a bright yellow colour even at doses of 5-200 ppm. A variety of blends are available to suit the colour of the product.

(v) Nutmeg
Nutmeg and mace are two different parts of the same fruit of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans.

The female nutmeg tree starts fruiting from the sixth year and the fruits are ready for harvest in about nine months after flowering.  The fruits are ripe and ready for harvesting when the pericarp splits open. The split fruits are either plucked from the tree with a hook bill or are collected soon after they drop onto the ground.

Post-harvest processing

Nutmeg is dried in large tray driers using electrical or agricultural wastes as fuel. The unshelled nutmegs are dried in shade until the seeds inside rattle on shaking.  Normally, nutmeg dries in about a week. The seed cover is removed by breaking the hard seed coat mechanically.

Mace is detached from the nut carefully soon after harvest, washed, flattened by hand or between boards and then sun dried until they become brittle. Hot air ovens can be used for drying and the colour retention is much better than sun dried mace. Dried mace is graded and packed. The fixed oil content of mace ranges from 20% to 35%.

Mace is dried in single layer over a wire mesh in copra drier separating the plenum and drying in the chamber. The temperature of drying is maintained around 500C.

As a pretreatment if mace is blanched at 750C in hot water for 2 minutes, the leathery texture can be maintained and the drying process will be fast. Drying in this type of hot air drier will take about 4 h to complete the process. In addition, blanching provides glossiness and thus mace acquires more attractive and pleasing appearance.

Value-added products from nutmeg
Nutmeg powder

Dried nutmeg is ground to fine powder to be used in various end products.

Nutmeg oil
The essential oil from nutmeg is steam distilled and the oil percentage varies from 5-15%. The essential oil is highly sensitive to light and temperature and yields a colourless, pale yellow or pale green oil with characteristic odour of nutmeg.

Nutmeg oleoresin
Nutmeg oleoresin is obtained by solvent extraction of spices. Oleoresins contain saturated volatile oil, fatty oil and other extractives soluble in the particular solvent. Nutmeg extracted with benzene yields 31 to 37% of oleoresins.

Nutmegs butter
 The fixed oil of nutmeg is known as nutmeg butter. Nutmeg butter contains 25 to 40% fixed oil. The fixed oil is freely soluble in ether or chloroform and is composed of trimyristin, unsaponifiable constituents (9.8%), and oleic acid (3.5%), resinous materials (2.3%), linolenic acid (0.6%) formic and acetate. Tri myristin is a triglyceride of myristic acid and is creamy to yellowish grey solid.  

Mace oleoresin
When extracted with petroleum ether mace yields 27 to 32% oleoresin and contains 8.5 to 22% volatile oil.

Mace oil
It is obtained by steam distillation of dried aril and yields 4-17%. It is a clear red or amber dark red liquid with characteristic odour and flavour. Mace oil is more expensive than nutmeg oil.

(vi)  Cinnamon
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is obtained by drying the central part of the bark after the second or third year of planting.

It is harvested from the branches which have attained greenish brown colour indicative of maturity and when the bark peels of easily. The shoots are cut for bark extraction.

Post-harvest processing
Following are the stages in the production of quills:

The rough outer bark is first scraped off with a special knife. Then the scraped portion is polished with a brass rod to facilitate easy peeling. A longitudinal slit is made from one end to other and the bark is peeled off.

 The barks are packed together and placed one above the other and pressed well. The bark slips are reduced to 20 cm length and are piled up in small enclosures made by sticks. Then they are covered with dry leaves or mat to preserve the moisture for the next day’s operation and also to enhance slight fermentation.

Rolled slips are taken to the piping yard for piping operations. The outer skin is scraped off with a small curved knife. The scraped slips are sorted into different grades according to thickness. The graded slips are trimmed; ends are cut and pressed over pipes. Slips are rolled into pipes and soon after they are allowed to dry. During drying, smaller quills are inserted into the bigger ones, forming smooth and pale brown compound quills, which are known as pipes. The quills are arranged in parallel lines in the shade for drying, as direct exposure to the sun at this stage would result in warping. The dried quills, thus obtained, consist of a mixture of coarse and fine types and are yellowish brown in colour. The quills are bleached, if necessary, by sulphur treatment for about 8 hours.

The process of producing quills has several by-products, which are used in further processing:

Quillings: These are broken pieces of quills used mainly for grinding but also for distillation of oil. The pieces vary considerably in size, being about 5 to 15 or 20 cm in length and about 10-25 mm in diameter.

Feathering: These are short shavings and small pieces of leftovers in the processing of the inner bark into quills. Collectively, featherings present a shade darker colour than the quills and a shade lighter than the chips.

Chips: These are small pieces of bark, grayish brown on the outer side and a lighter brown on the inside. They are deficient in both aroma and taste and are not to be compared to the quills for flavour.

Value-added product from cinnamon
Cinnamon bark oil

It is essentially extracted by the steam distillation of cinnamon and the oil percentage varies from 0.5 to 2.5%. The main constituent of this oil is cinnamaldehyde which constitutes to 65%. The oil is light yellow in colour and when distilled and turns to red on storage. The bark oil is graded based on its cinnamic aldehyde content. The oil is widely used for flavouring confectionery, liquors, pharmaceuticals, soaps and dental preparations.  

Cinnamon oleoresin
The dry cinnamon bark powder on treating with solvents like acetone, alcohol, ethyl acetate yields a viscous mass that attribute to the total taste and aroma of cinnamon. The oleoresin content varies from 7-10%.

Cinnamon leaf oil
It is obtained by distilling the leaves through steam or water distillation. The leaves are allowed to dry for 3 – 4 days before distillation. Cinnamon leaf oil is yellow to brownish-yellow in colour and possesses a warm, spicy but rather harsh odour. The major constituent of leaf oil is eugenol (70 – 90%) while the cinnamaldehyde content is less than 5%. It is used as a raw material for synthesis of vanillin. The oil is used for flavouring confectionery and sweets and in perfumery.  

Cinnamon powder
The quills and remnants of the bark can be powdered and used as cinnamon powder.  For most baked products, cinnamon is used in the powdered form. The essential oil content of the powder is less compared to the bark due to losses during the process of grinding.

Cinnamon root bark oil
Cinnamon root bark oil is a colourless to pale yellowish-brown liquid with an odour similar to the stem bark oil but it is weaker, lacking in fragrance and is camphoraceous.  The major component of this oil is camphor (about 60%) which crystallises out on standing.

Post-harvest management of spices has great scope considering present international trade scenario. We expect a huge jump in the export of curry powders and other value-added products in the coming decade. The total export in value-added products may cross US$600 million in the coming 10 years.

According to you, what are the prospects for the future growth of spices in India?
The spice crop sector is too vital a sector to be neglected in terms of conscious developmental initiatives. The policy perspectives should not only give cognisance to the specific needs of the constituent crops in the sector, but also address the common challenges faced by the sector as a whole. The emerging challenges in the sector need to be specifically marked out in the perspective policy outlines for the sector.

While we face many urgent sustainability challenges, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, poverty, epidemics etc., a major issue that has assumed threatening proportions is spice and spice-based food contamination and adulteration. Stringent global standards have left a major share of our spice exports in the lurch, with the result that our products are viewed with skepticism. Therefore, in order to ensure that our spice exports do not get rejected, it is imperative that we accept and religiously follow the stringent quality standards through several capability building and capacity building ventures. While there has been a considerable improvement as far as the quality of spice exports are concerned, we need to harmonise our standards with Codex, FDA and EU guidelines with adequate backup through advanced research in areas like method development and method validation vis-á-vis food safety. It is also important that the quality of our spices and spice-based food products, both for export and domestic consumption, is continuously monitored and controlled using the state-of-the-art technologies. Apparently, this calls for a continuous, frank and honest dialogue between the consumers, the government and the industry.

What is the latest research happening in your institute?
  • Conservation, characterisation and sustainable utilisation of genetic resources of spices
  • Development of trait-specific and improved varieties of spices through conventional breeding and biotechnological approaches
  • Development of resource conservation and management technologies for improving productivity of spices
  • Development, refinement and demonstration of integrated cropping system for improved total factor productivity in spices
  • Development, refinement and demonstration of organic production technology of spices for improved productivity, quality and soil health  
  • Development and refinement of post-harvest handling, processing and value addition technologies for minimisation of post-harvest losses and diversified use of spices
  • Bio-intensive management of pests in spices
  • Development of diagnostic kits and integrated management of viral diseases of spices
  • Improving knowledge and skill of stakeholders for increasing production of spices
What are the challenges faced by IISR in regards to regulations, exports, technology and so on?
  • Refinement of technologies to make them more attractive to small-holder producers/
  • Vagaries of monsoon resulting in drought/excess moisture, high/low temperature during critical periods, heavy winds etc.
  • Soil factors – high acidity (especially in Kerala), poor drainage, low nutrient status etc.
  • Rampant (injudicious) and unbalanced chemical fertilisation (e.g. in Kerala-overuse of high analysis P fertilisers leading to P toxicity, associated nutrient imbalances), thereby predisposing the crops to stress.
  • Non-availability of quality planting materials
  • Emergence and epidemics of pests and diseases
  • Inadequate extension network (therefore unscientific management)
  • Shifting of interests of growers to more profitable/less risky crops
  • Poor post-harvest processing and storage
  • High level of microbials including mycotoxin and toxic chemicals in the finished product
  • Adulteration of spice products
  • Cyclic market fluctuations at international and national level
  • Lack of awareness about pesticide residues and mycotoxin contaminants in the products and lack of MRL and ADI standards in some of the pesticides used in spices
  • Emergence of other major spice producing countries which compete with India in the international market.
What are the steps taken to educate farmers in spice industry?
The institute conducts training programmes of various durations to impart training to diverse groups of stakeholders including farmers, farming professionals, spice processors etc. The institute also provides support to training programmes organised by other developmental institutions in public sector, farmers cooperative bodies, line departments of state governments, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, NGOs etc.  The institute follows an inclusive strategy to disseminate technologies related to spice farming with special focus on tribals, youth and women farmers. The institute has also leveraged the reach and multilocational presence of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Spices with 38 centres (19 regular, 11 co-opting and 8 voluntary centres) across the country to effectively carry out its mandate in research and extension.

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