Topic 1 Introduction to Spices, Importance, Area and Production

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Introduction to Spices, Importance, Area and Production

Spice Crops


Spices are an important place in agricultural commodities, which have been considered essential for the taste of food items since ancient times. Some are used in pharmaceutical, perfumery, cosmetics and many other industries, and others are also used as color pigments, preservatives, antioxidants, antiseptic and antibiotics. Moreover, they also play an important role in India’s national economy.


  • According to the International Organization for Standardization, Budapest, Hungary (ISO) report, about 109 spices are grown in different parts of the world.
  • Out of these, 63 are grown in India. But commercial farming is limited to about a dozen spices. Experts from both ISO and ISO (now BIS) (Bureau of Indian Standards) have concluded after a lot of deliberations that there is no clear distinction between Spices and Condiment and they are put together.

The term ‘spice and condiment’ applies to natural or vegetable products or mixtures that are used in whole or crushed form, mainly for the taste, aroma and colour of food, or for tempering in foods and beverages such as soups, etc.

  • Spices are natural plant products that are used to improve the taste, aroma and color of food products; They are also used in drinks, alcohol, and medicine, cosmetic and perfume products. Since time immemorial, India is known as the Land of Spice. There is no diversity of spice crops like India in any other country of the world. Indian spices are famous for their excellent aroma, taste and sharpness.

World Trade in Spices

The world spice trade position in 1998 was 026,076 tons, higher than the $US (000) 23,38,541. The comparative importance of individual spices in world trade in declining order is shown in the table.

World Rank Spices
I Black and white pepper
II Chilli and Dea Chilli (Chillies and peprika)’
Ill Algebraic Spices Seeds
IV Cinnamon
V Turmeric
VI Ginger
VII Jaiffle and Javitri (Nutmeg and Mace)
VIII Cardamom
IX Curry powder
X Long (Clove)
Xl AllSpice
XII Vanilla
XIII Saffron

Area and production

  • Some of the important spices in India are pepper, cardamom, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, celery, saffron, tamarind and garlic. The spices produced and exported in small quantities are aniseed, bishop’s weed, dill seed, poppy seeds, curry leaves, cinnamon, and cocoa. However, some spices are cultivated in the country for adequate production. Such spices are cloves, nutmeg, allspice, marjorum, thyme and basil. Vanilla and Paprika have still not started commercial cultivation, but there is immense potential for production and export.
  • Kerala is the leading state in the production of pepper in the country, which contributes to 95% area and 97% production. The area of pepper in India is 1, 34000 hector in 2017-18. Which has been more than the last few years, mainly due to the prevailing attractive prices of pepper in the domestic and international markets. However, it is worth noting that despite the highly favourable climate, improved varieties and high-tech production technologies, the productivity of pepper in the country is much lower than in other chilli producing countries.

Table:- Area and production of spices in 2017-18

Area in ‘000 Ha

Production in ‘000 MT

Crops 2017-18
Area Production
Ajwan 35 24
Cardamom 84 28
Chillies (Dried) 752 2149
Cinnamon/ Tejpata 3 5
Clove 2 1
Coriander 532 710
Cumin 966 689
Fenugreek 140 202
Fennel 66 104
Garlic 317 1611
Ginger 160 1118
Nutmeg 23 15
Pepper 134 66
Vanilla 5 0
Tamarind 48 201
Turmeric 238 1133
Mint (Mentha) 327 33
Total 3878 8124

Source: NHB data base 2018-19

  • Over the years, the spice sector and production in India have steadily increased. The annual growth rate of spices sector and production in India is estimated to be 5.6% and 0.0% in 2016-17 respectively. The total production under cultivation of spices is 31, 17, 14000 metric tonnes and the area is about 2, 54, 31000 hectares. Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and north-eastern states are important for spice production.
  • Among the cultivation of spices in India, pepper is known as the ‘King of Spices’. It is the country’s most important dollar-earning crop that plays a decisive role in our national and state economy. Kerala is at the forefront of contributing to 96% of the sector.
  • Cardamom, known as the ‘Queen of Spices’, is known as an important commodity in the international market. India had monopolized the sector under the cultivation, production and export of cardamom till the eighties but Guatemala (Gautemala) stepped up its production since the mid-eighties and catapulted India to the second position in production.
  • Ginger also contributes a lot to export earnings. India’s largest area under ginger cultivation with 1118 thousand metric tonne production during 2017-18 is 160 thousand hectares. It is mainly grown in Kerala, Sikkim, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • India is a major producer of turmeric. The area of turmeric is 238 thousand hectares during 2017-18 and 1133 thousand metric tonnes in production. The major turmeric growing states of India are Assam, Maharashtra, Orissa, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Coriander, cumin, fenugreek and fennel are important in the algebraic spices grown in India. Algebraic spices are also an important commodity in the international market. India produces about 80% of the supply of coriander in the world. Only Rajasthan produces 70 per.
  • In Gere, India holds an important position. 90% of the total production is generated in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The major cumin producing states are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
  • Fennel is also an important seed spice of India which plays an important role in the foreign market for export. About 90% of the total fennel production comes from Gujarat. Other producing States are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka and Bihar.
  • Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. This cultivation is confined to the Kashmir valley. India’s share in global supply is 51 tonnes which is slightly higher than 10%.

Spice oil

Spice oil is obtained by steam distillation of different parts of spices. Thus the oil is endowed with the essential flavour and aroma properties of the spices.

The following are the different types of spice oils:

Pepper oil: Oil is obtained from steam distillation of dried and crushed seeds of pepper. This oil is used to taste in food, especially when anyone wants a fragrant-like chilli without sharpness. The amount of oil in pepper is 2-4%.

Ginger oil: Ginger oil is obtained by distillation from rhizomes of crushed dried ginger. The normal yield of oil is 1.5-2.5%. Ginger is valuable for its sharpness, warmth and taste. The major incisive theory is due to the presence of ginjerol (gingerol).

Cardamom oil: Cardamom oil is present in seeds and whole fruits i.e. capsules. Its ground powder is used to provide fragrances in foods. Oil is obtained from steam distillation from its seeds. The capsule contains 6-8% oil and 8-12% in the seed. The major components of cardamom oil are cineole and terpenyl acetate.

Nutmeg oil: It contains 2-15% oil. It contains geraniole, linalul, terpinole, safrole and elemicin.


  • Oleoresin is a concentrated product obtained by extraction of dried spices.
  • Extraction is carried out using a mixture of organic solvent or solvent such as ethyleneic chloride, acetone, alcohol and hexane.
  • Oleoresin represents the full flavour of fresh spices or has all the qualities that were in the mash.
  • It contains volatile and non-volatile components of spices.
  • Residual solvent in oleoresin should be below 30 ppm.
  • Oleoresin cannot be used directly as it is too concentrated
  • But in fatty products such as processed meats, fish cheese, baked food and vegetables, oleoresin can be used directly. Oleoresin remains stable even in more heat than oils does not fly.

Constraints in production 

  1. Lack of adequate infrastructure for mass production and lack of distribution of quality planting material of newly released varieties.
  2. Low productivity due to cultivation of varieties with poor genetic potential.
  3. Less manure or unbalanced manure is usually followed.
  4. Not adopting improved agricultural activities, as well as soil and water conservation measures.
  5. Non-adoption of integrated pest and disease management.
  6. Inadequate expansion network for effective transfer of technology. (Inadequate extension network for effective transfer of technology)
  7. Frequent fluctuations in commodity prices and lack of support price.

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