Organic food business grows four-fold in 3 years

Growing health consciousness and awareness about harmful pesticides has nearly quadrupled the size of organic foods in India in the last three years. Organic foods, which started out by occupying fewer shelves at retail stores, is now a Rs 300 crore business in the domestic market. The export market from India is even bigger at Rs 700 crore, according to industry experts.

Consumers are opting for healthier eating habits which is driving entrepreneurship in organic foods, prodding retailers to offer greater shelf space to brands in this category. As per industry estimates, the category is currently growing at 50 per cent per annum.

Industry experts believe with growing talk about the bad effects of chemicals and pesticides used in the food industry, products that are believed to be free of such substances will grow exponentially.

“Three years back, this market was approximately Rs 70 crore. We are growing at a very healthy rate year on year. In the last 5 years, shelf space given to organic foods has tripled. However, retailers are yet to realize the full potential,” said N Balasubramanian, CEO, Sresta Natural Bioproducts, who claims its brand 24 Mantra is the largest player in organic foods in India.

The company is present in key categories like atta, brown rice, honey, tur dal, turmeric, juices and breakfast cereals in organic foods.

Given the growth of this market, 24 Mantra, which is present in more than 125 cities across India, is planning to extend to ready to cook traditional products like pongal, poha, khichdi and millet dosa as well.

Mohit Khattar, MD & CEO, Godrej Nature’s Basket said awareness around polluted ground water near industrial area, increasingly chemical laden environment in general or the harmful impact of chemicals in day to day food has added to the consciousness of consumers. “It definitely makes them want to change simple things around them. And one of the things they can change easily is adopting a healthier and more sustainable way of life. It is this context that organic products are seeing increased acceptance and growing popularity,” said Khattar.

Godrej Nature’s Basket, which has been a pioneer in bringing and selling organic products like tea, pasta, sauces, across its stores, plans to enhance the range of organic options further and making the availability of these more consistent.

Organic packaged food comes at a premium to the regular variety of packaged commodity. If the monthly household expense for a family of four on grocery is in the range of Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000, a switch to a brand of organic food would cost Rs 1,200-1,500 more per month. “This is almost the same as what a family would spend on a movie outing over a weekend,” said Balasubramanian.

Retrieved from – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Organic-food-business-grows-four-fold-in-3-years/articleshow/48646912.cms

Tea Board incentivises tea exporters in North-East

The Tea Board of India has come up with an incentive scheme to provide monetary support towards additional transport and handling charges incurred by tea exporters in the north-east.

Under the scheme, tea exports from the north-east are eligible for a financial assistance of Rs.1.50 per kg of the product if the same is exported from the Inland Container Depot (ICD) located in Guwahati’s Amingaon area.

“The scope of the original scheme for assisting tea exports towards meeting handling, packaging, transport, freight charges and value addition costs have been extended with a view to also compensating exporters who are shipping teas from ICD Amingaon,” a Tea Board of India circular said.

The tea authority under the ministry of commerce and industry said the companies shipping Indian variants of tea abroad have to pay additional charges which are levied by chipping companies and the scheme will help the exporters.

The scheme will be applicable to exports during the 2014-15 fiscal and on disbursements made during April-December 2014.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/tea-board-incentivises-tea-exporters-in-north-east-115081800768_1.html

Amalgamated Spice Park inaugurated in Koliabor

“Protidin” newspaper dated. 30th July 2015

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Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gogoi formally inaugurated the first Spice Park of the North eats India at Koliabor in Nagaon district on Wednesday. Mr Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman, Amalgamated Plantations was present with the CM at the opening ceremony of this park, established by APPL, an associate of Tata Enterprise.

Social welfare scheme and tea garden community welfare programme at Hathikuli Organic, Misa Sports Complex for Heritage and tea tourism at Misa Polo Club were also inaugurated by the CM.

The Spice Park comprises of three processing units viz processing of tuber spices like turmeric and ginger in one line, seed spices like black pepper and mustard etc in the second and chillies in the third line. The enterprise also encouraged the use of alternative sources of energy for energy conservation.

It is expected that the spices produced by the farming community of North-east India will get a proper market linkage and also cater for specific market needs.

Translated by – Mr Haren Pathak

‘God’s gift’ from spice plant – Tea company sets up largest facility in Kaliabor

Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest tea-producing company in the country, will be offering its spice products under the brand name Anshi.

Anshi means “God’s gift” in Sanskrit.

Amalgamated Spice Park

The company commissioned Amalgamated Spice Park, the largest spice-processing plant in the Northeast which is housed at a state government industrial facility at Kaliabor in Nagaon district on July 29.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi inaugurated the project. Besides this, he also inaugurated three more projects of the company.

A senior official of the APPL said in order to be more customer-centric and offer some of its products directly to end-consumers, it has decided to market them under the umbrella brand Anshi.

“It would encapsulate and connote everything that the APPL’s products would offer. Its place of origin and the resultant goodness in health and taste that only natural foods can promise,” he said.

The unit is spread across 6.2 bighas with a built-up area of 30,000 square feet.

“The Spice Park aims to promote the indigenous spices of the Northeast through fair price, value additions and creating market linkages in domestic and international markets for the spice-farming fraternity,” the official said.

It will have three processing lines – one for tuber spices like ginger and turmeric, second for seed spices like black pepper, coriander, mustard and the third one for chilli processing.

Many of the spices have been sourced from spice-specific clusters identified at various locations in the region.

The company at present grows only black pepper and has planted over three lakh trees.

“In the next two years, this figure will be approximately seven lakh trees. The current production is 40 tonnes and on maturity this figure will exceed 600 tonnes,” the official said.

Black pepper is the most-traded spice in the world. It is known as the king of spices for its hot, biting flavour and pungent aroma.

The plan at present is to sell spices to manufacturers across the country. Spices would be available at its kiosks in Assam and the Dooars. Exports will be planned at a later stage.

“The unit has been designed to address sustainability issues through initiatives in water and waste management, use of alternative sources of energy and landscaping for improving air quality,” the official said.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150727/jsp/northeast/story_33857.jsp#.VbsVUvOqqko

*Edited

NASA help for struggling Assam tea

Several international institutions, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), have come forward to bail out the tea industry which is passing through “difficult times” because of climate change, resulting in unpredictable weather and increasing pest attacks.

Against an unprecedented dry spell in the last couple of years, tea-rich Upper Assam has received 260mm more rainfall this year, receiving 1,095mm rainfall till now against 829mm last year.

Tocklai director M. Muraleedharan said the institution has tied up with Cranfield University of the UK and Kobe Gakuin University of Japan recently to find ways for the tea industry to cope with climate change in one of the highest tea-growing regions of the world.

“Process is also on to tie up with Ethical Tea Partnership, a London-based organisation, which is currently working with the Kenyan tea industry on climate change,” the director said.

Tocklai deputy director R.M. Bhagat said the project with Cranfield University would be funded by the British Council while the Kobe Gakuin University project would be funded by Sumitomo Foundation of Japan.

He said from September, Nasa would start providing data on soil moisture status of the Northeast, which would be a big boost for not only tea but for other crops as well.

“Data from Nasa will start flowing in from September and all the participating institutions in this particular project would benefit,” Bhagat said.

Tocklai is among the 50 institutions in the world that have tied up with Nasa in the soil-mapping project.

“We have tied up with Nasa in this particular project and we are hopeful that its data would be of great help for not only tea but other crops in the region,” Bhagat said.

He said the data would help in proper application of fertilisers and irrigation facilities.

The Tocklai director said an unpredictable weather and the limitation for the use of chemicals after the implementation of the plant protection code on tea have resulted in an increase in pest attacks on tea bushes.

Plant protection code (PPC) is a set of guidelines for regulating the chemical inputs in tea cultivation and was implemented from January 1 this year with the aim to make Indian tea a safe and healthy drink.

Muraleedharan said Tocklai has appealed to the Central Insecticide Board, the agriculture ministry and other authorities concerned to allow tea planters to use at least two chemicals – flubendiamide and emamectin benzoate – which are most essential to fight against the luper caterpillar, one of the most common pests of the tea bush.

“Going by the increasing pest attacks, there would be a big impact on production,” he warned.

Assam produces more than 50 per cent of the country’s over 600 million kg of tea annually and the five districts of Upper Assam – Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat – produce over 400 million kg of tea annually, which is 70 per cent of the state’s production.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150723/jsp/northeast/story_33187.jsp#.VbB2IqSqqko

Spices Board opens two signature shops ‘Spices India’ features value-added products

Spices Board has launched signature shops under the brand name ‘Spices India’ that showcases the country’s choicest spices and their value-added products, including lifestyle and personal care, under one roof.

These two showrooms were opened in the national capital—one on the arterial Janpath road and the other at Dilli Haat, a fashionable open air plaza for ethnic products, in Janakpuri in west Delhi.

Union Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher, while inaugurating the two shops says  “This will promote an array of quality products like spices-infused chocolate slabs, beauty creams, fairness oils, bathing bars, shower gel and shampoo.”

“Purity and quality will be the hallmarks of such outlets. Strict adherence should be made to the correctness of weight and quality. India thrives on spices; so does the world now. Spices are class-neutral. Some spice or the other is to be found in everyone’s palate in our country,” he adds.

Secretary Kher suggested setting up of ‘Knowledge Kisoks’ within the outlets to provide information to visitors on spices grown in various states. “We also need to popularise ‘Spices India’ among the domestic tourists. Our focus should be on improving packaging, processing and branding, besides better utilisation of technology.”

The shops sell aromatic gel candles as a key attraction. These are available with the fragrance of nutmeg, clove, cardamom, mint, vanilla and cinnamon.
‘Spices India’ displays a wide variety of Indian spices and value-added products derived from them. It specially features an assortment of whole spices and a casket of exclusive spices extracts.

A premier gift item is a slab of chocolates that contain cumin, chilly, cinnamon, cardamom and clove tangs. Also available are gift boxes and containers with an array of superior quality spices.

All the showrooms have a ‘Spice Kitchen’ where visitors can touch, feel and taste spices. There are men at the counter willing to provide information about the spices. Further, there is a small library where books and documentaries are available on varieties of spices. To top it all, there is a map of India that shows spices grown in a particular region.

Dr. A. Jayathilak, chairman, Spices Board says,” ‘Spices India’ shops are part of the new thrusts to ensure sustainability of the industry. “We have chalked out an expansion plan. We are talking to the state governments to provide space. We are hopeful of opening new outlets in various parts of the country.”

He said the Board was continuing its efforts to help farmers and collectives to secure a better price for their produce by trading directly with them. “Such a system eliminates middlemen; the collective can demand a fair price for the larger quantity of goods they sell. We are paying them higher price than normal market price,” he added.

Headquartered in Kochi, Spices Board has been adding new spices and products to its export casket also in its bid to accomplish the primary objective of bringing about rapid and systematic diversification of spice industry.

Also, Spices Board’s novel initiative ‘Flavourit’ undertakes the branding, packaging marketing and promotion of finest spice goods collected from individual farmers and collectives to be sold to the general public. It streamlines the efforts of spice growers working at grassroots with market forces by helping growers, collectives and developmental ventures to bring the economic and social inclusion.
With regional laboratories in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Tuticorin and Guntur, the agency places increasing emphasis on value-added spices and spice derivatives in a bid to establish international spice brands and build globally-acceptable benchmarks in quality and safety parameters.

As for flavour, it would seek to restore the quality and popularity of once famous grades of spices like Alleppey Green Extra Bold Cardamom, Tellicherry Garbled Extra Bold (TGEB) Malabar Pepper and other spices, known for their culinary, therapeutic and cosmetic properties. Spices Board encourages and facilitates direct purchase from farmers to ensure easy accessibility of the merchandise it sells, besides lending quality to the market products.

Reference – http://www.fnbnews.com/article/detnews.asp?articleid=37391&sectionid=45

Kolkata to get nation’s first fish hospital

A fish hospital — the first of its kind in the country — will become operational in Kolkata in two-three months. The hospital, with facilities to diagnose and treat ailments in fish commercially bred in the state, will help farmers increase their produce.

West Bengal was the country’s largest fish producer till it was overtaken by Andhra Pradesh in 2011-12. Experts believe that the yield in Bengal can go up if healthier species are bred.

“The building has already been constructed and electrical work is in progress. Our aim will be to find out what ailments the fish bred in the state suffer from and help farmers increase the yield. While Bengal is one of the largest producers of fish in the country, things can certainly improve. The hospital is coming up at our campus in Panchasayar’s Chakgaria in Kolkata,” said Professor T J Abraham, professor (fishery microbiology) and principal investigator, department of aquatic animal health, faculty of fishery sciences, West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Services (WBUAFS).

The facility comprises 50 glass aquariums and 25 circular water tanks to house the fish. The expense of Rs 1.75 crore has been borne by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research under the ministry of agriculture. According to Abraham, the hospital will first diagnose and treat fish that are bred by farmers. At a later stage, efforts may be made to find out ailments that wild fish, caught along Bengal’s coast, suffer from. A study conducted by Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) revealed that several species found in the wild, particularly marine varieties, have parasites in their intestines. This may affect their internal organs, reducing their growth and egg-laying capacity.

According to experts at WBUAFS, nearly 20% of the state’s fish production is affected due to poor management practices. It is estimated that India’s fish suffer from 60-65 diseases and nearly 10% of Bengal’s fish is wasted due to this.

A study published in the International Journal of Bio-resource and Stress Management by four researchers, including two from WBUAFS, suggested that parasites are more prevalent in carps cultured in bheris of Bengal and around Kolkata as farmers use sewerage water. This comprises 99% water and 1% of other material, including pathogens like bacteria, virus and large parasites. These can cause primary and secondary infections and mortality in fish.

According to Abraham, farmers can approach the hospital whenever they suspect a problem with their fish. They can report abnormalities like change in colour or size. They can even bring in samples for diagnosis and treatment.

Reference – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Kolkata-to-get-nations-first-fish-hospital/articleshow/47777615.cms

Spices exports touch ₹14,900 cr in FY15

Indian spices maintained their robust demand in the international market with exports exceeding the target by touching ₹14,899.68 crore in FY15 against ₹13,735.39 crore in the previous fiscal.

Chilli, mint and mint products, cumin, spice oils and oleoresins, pepper, turmeric, coriander, small cardamom, curry powder/paste and fenugreek contributed substantially to the spices export basket, as the demand scaled up phenomenally at the global level.

About 8,93,920 tonnes of spices and spice products valued at ₹14,899.68 crore ($2,432.85 million) were exported, registering a 9 per cent increase in volume and 8 per cent in rupee terms and 7 per cent in dollar terms in value against 8,17,250 tonnes in FY14. The export figure also exceeded the target of 7,55,000 tonnes.

The achievement is substantial and it was achieved in the face of tough competition. Increased demand for Indian spices in the international market is a testimony to their unmatched quality and escalating faith in their sustainability, A Jayathilak, Chairman, Spices Board, said.

Chilli continued to maintain the leading position in the export basket, accounting for 347,000 tonnes in quantity and ₹3,51,710 lakh in value. Mint and mint products also earned substantial foreign exchange worth ₹2,68,925 lakh through exports of 25,750 tonnes.

In terms of volume, chilli was followed by cumin with an export quantity of 1,55,500 tonnes earning a foreign exchange worth ₹1,83,820 lakh.

Pepper contributed significantly to export earnings by bringing home ₹1,20,842 lakh with a corresponding export volume of 21,450 tonnes.

Value-added spice products like spice oils and oleoresins notched a significant high with figures of 11,475 tonnes and ₹1,91,090 lakh. Turmeric too continued to make great strides with an export volume of 86,000 tonnes, which translated into an earning of ₹74,435 lakh.

Coriander was another major spice with a huge demand in foreign markets. By exporting 46,000 tonnes, it fetched ₹49,812.50 lakh, while curry powder/paste contributed to the exchequer with a tidy amount of ₹ 47,626 lakh through export of 24,650 tonnes.

“Indian spices are not only lucrative products for the national exchequer but have also become a trusted global brand. The challenge for us is to give a huge impetus to their exports and sustain their quality and flavor”, Jayathilak said.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/spices-exports-touch-14900-cr-in-fy15/article7317897.ece

Big push for organic tea in India – Tea Board of India provides 25% more subsidy than normal

The Tea Board of India is giving a big push to organic tea production in the country for the first time by providing 25 per cent more subsidy than the normal subsidy of 30 per cent.

This has for the first time been incorporated in the Twelfth Plan by the board to give a boost to organic tea, which has been gaining momentum in the country (see chart).

Besides, it has a premium market commanding high prices abroad. “We will try to mitigate the problems being faced by gardens wanting to go organic to some extent,” S. Soundarajan, director of tea development, Tea Board of India, told The Telegraph.

The total money kept for orthodox tea production subsidy is Rs 150 crore. A total of 50 per cent of the cost of certification will be paid as subsidy.

The term organic describes both how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organic product is free of chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic modifications and field use of sewage sludge as fertiliser.

It takes a minimum of three years for a garden to become organic and it will have to be certified as organic by an accredited certifying agency. Organic tea constituted two per cent of the total organic products exported in India in 2012-13.

The problems for gardens that wish to go organic are two-fold – yield drop and increase in cost of production. Sources say the average yield drop is 44 per cent over the conventional cultivation and over 65 per cent increase in the cost of production.

Officials say one of the primary reasons for a shift to the organic sector is the premium market that commands high prices. Besides this, organic tea cultivation could be a solution to restore/increase the continuous depleting crop productivity under the present chemical farming practice, to restore soil/ecosystem, depleted under years of synthetic fertilisers and agro-chemical application and to redress the problem of climate change and to generate employment and reduce health hazards for the workers.

“It is a progressive move by the board to encourage gardens to go organic. But to get benefits for us who already have an organic tea garden – Hathikuli in Assam will have to see and talk to the board,” managing director of Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, Jagjeet Singh Kandal, told The Telegraph. He said the company is proud to be pioneering in the development and evolution of an effective package of practices for organic conversion and cultivation.

The market for organic tea is in Europe and especially Germany. “The market in India is very small and a niche one,” he said.

The 687-hectare Hathikuli tea garden, situated on the periphery of Kaziranga National Park, is certified organic according to the Indian, US, European Union and Japanese organic agricultural standards.

The process of organic transformation of Hathikuli garden was undertaken in 2007 and was achieved in 2011. “Though the move is good I am sceptical of the economic benefits after three years of conversion from inorganic to organic. Costs are rising,” C.S. Bedi, managing director of Rossel Tea, said.

The working group on climate change constituted by the Inter-governmental Group on Tea under the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which met in Rome last year, had said organic cultivation of tea is a sustainable way to battle climate change. “Organic cultivation of tea is a sustainable way to combat climate change. Use of naturally available products, such as organic manure or compost, increases climate resilience,” the group had said in its report last year.

The tea board today announced that tea production in 2014-15 was 1197.18 million kg, of which the share of Assam was 606.80 million kg. The production in 2014 calendar year from January to December was 1207.31 million kg, of which Assam’s share is 610.97 million kg.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150604/jsp/frontpage/story_23884.jsp#.VW_TVNKqqkq

Cementing a new track in growing pepper

Traditionally pepper is grown as an intercrop in plantations. However, a farmer from Enmakaje village, bordering Karnataka and Kerala, has begun growing pepper on a trial basis as a mono-crop with cement poles as support.

Some three years ago when there was a rumour on the likely ban on arecanut, B Gopalakrishna Bhat from Enmakaje village in Kerala’s Kasaragod district thought of diversifying his crop. He felt that pepper plantation was the ideal choice then.

He, along with his neighbour K Mahesh Bhat, approached IISR (Indian Institute of Spices Research) in Kozhikode and got Thevam, Shakti, Srikara and Panchami varieties for planting two years ago.

Cement poles
Gopalakrishna Bhat finalised to grow it as a mono crop and decided to install cement poles as a support for the vines. (Traditionally farmers use arecanut or other trees as a support for pepper vines).
Bhat told that he planted around 100 pepper saplings on a trial basis in his plot.
BP
To a query if using cement poles would be a costly proposition, he said he invested around ₹1,000 for a single sapling, including the cost of the cement pole with 4-inch diameter. The hollow cement pipes have been filled with concrete to make it strong, he said. The height of the poles in his trial plot ranges from 8 ft to 15 ft.

P Chowdappa, Director of the Kasaragod-based Central Plantation Crops Research Institute, told that cement poles can be used for support in pepper plantations. However, people normally do not venture for that as it involves additional investment.

Investment details
Farmers will get more income from multiple crops in same unit area if pepper is cultivated as inter-crop, he said.

Agreeing with him, Gopalakrishna Bhat said the investment will be one-twentieth of his trial plot in the case of pepper as an inter-crop. Highlighting the advantage of pepper as a mono-crop, he said harvesting takes a longer time when it is grown as an inter-crop.He is hopeful of getting around 4 kg of pepper a year from a single plant in this model. He has maintained a spacing of 8×8 ft in his plot.

Yield & disease
On the average yield as an intercrop, he said he got around 5 kg a plant as in intercrop in arecanut plantation, because the plant can go up to a height of 20 ft with arecanut plant as a support. That is not the case in this trial plot, he said.

Stating that this is the 13th month of pepper cultivation as a mono-crop, Bhat said some plants of Thevam variety have begun to bear the berries. The result is not replicated in other varieties, he said.

Narrating his experience, he said around 1,000 saplings can be planted on an acre of land in this model.

On diseases in the plantation, Bhat said he did not face any issue of disease in the last 13 months. He follows the package of practices being suggested by the IISR.

Mahesh Bhat – who planted IISR saplings as intercrop in his farm – said that one of the reasons for disease-free growth in Gopalakrishna Bhat’s plot could be the plain land where the mono-crop cultivation is being taken up. There is no scope for water logging in such a land unlike the arecanut plantations, he said.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/cementing-a-new-track-in-growing-pepper/article7198283.ece