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Digital Intervention Overdue In The Indian Spices Sector

Digital technologies provide a common platform to all farmers, traders, exporters and even processors to facilitate trade, which ultimately builds greater trust & transparency among buyers & sellers.

Despite the restrictions brought about by the COVID pandemic, India’s spices witnessed a sharp rise in demand in international markets. It is estimated that India’s spices export crossed the $4 billion mark during the pandemic, a sharp jump from FY 2019-20, which also recorded an impressive $3.7 billion in spices exports. However, only 13-14% of India’s spices produced are exported, leaving the rest for internal consumption. Considering India’s dominance as the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices, this is an impressive figure. But keeping the peculiar agro-climatic conditions of our country in mind, there is a huge potential to bolster our spices cultivation, which can help to massively increase exports to capture more market share globally.

Tackling legacy issues in the era of AgTech

Though it is a vast market of taste, the Indian spices sector is facing multiple challenges when it comes to export. Not being able to meet global quality standards, not having proper direct market linkage & no visibility on its origin, are some of the prominent issues which impact the export potential of India’s spices sector. Evolved market regulations are increasingly stressing on quality and traceability solutions from traders, and lack of adequate digital infrastructure to provide these solutions restrict India’s spice trade potential.

One of the biggest export challenges at present is the issue of meeting quality standards of different markets. Quality assurance of spices directly corresponds to fetching the best rates and sure-shot growth of business, export, and trade for the spice sector. 

The need of the hour is to build a fully-integrated platform which can not only provide direct market linkage for seamless trade, but is also supported by smart technology that can provide quality assurance and traceability linked with the platform. Presently, the trade ecosystem still relies on structures that are majorly traditional, with quality assessment processes being time-consuming and prone to human-errors. Low awareness and lack of a standardized digital ecosystem across the spice value chains, hinders farmers and agribusinesses from leveraging existing potential of technological solutions.

Rising to the challenge

The Spices Board of India has set an ambitious goal to reach an export value of $5 billion by 2025 and further $10 billion by 2030. To achieve this target, massive efforts will be required to boost export competitiveness of Indian spices, and also increase productivity and profitability across the spice value chains. At the same time, new avenues of growth opportunities and untapped markets will have to be explored to sustain the increase in demand over a long period of time. Here, technology can be the pillar to support the growth of India’s thriving spices trade.

In our experience working with diverse agribusinesses across the country, we realized that the need of the hour is to build India-specific solutions, which can address the unmet needs of trade in this dynamic sector, particularly in the post-harvest space. For instance, culmination of years of work has led to the recent launch of India’s first AI-based solution for rapid quality testing of curcumin content in turmeric. This technology is helping to automate the quality assessments, nullifying human error in the process and reducing testing time from days & long hours to seconds. Usage of this technology provides on-the-spot quality evaluation, fair pricing, incentivization of farmers to grow better quality produce and increases quality-based trade. Ultimately, increased adoption and access to this smart technology will help to ensure flow of high-quality produce across the supply chain. Thus, over time, by standardizing food testing using technology, we can help increase the penetration of high-quality spices (and other agri-produce) in the markets.   

Another benefit of integrating digital technologies in spice trade is that every transaction is digitally mapped, which reduces the risk of human error and an un-standardized processing approach. This allows agribusinesses to map their procurement and trade operations that are happening on-ground in real-time. Similarly, by providing end-to-end solutions, the element of traceability from farm to fork is embedded into the system. By feeding multiple data-sets from this system into an AI-led SaaS platform ‘Qualix’, agribusinesses can derive critical business insights for smart sourcing, supplier management, building quality maps, among other parameters.  

Digital technologies provide a common platform to all farmers, traders, exporters and even processors to facilitate trade, which ultimately builds greater trust & transparency among buyers & sellers. These technologies are also more cost-effective and more sustainable in the long-run. Standardization in quality assessment can be achieved by leveraging technological solutions and bringing in industry best practices to make them available to all stakeholders in the spice value chain. 

Digitization of spices trade by integrating frontier technologies on one platform is the answer to boost India’s export leadership in spices, drive fair pricing for farmers and agribusinesses, and also ensure high quality flow of spices across food value chains.

Source: Business World

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