Colombo, October 31: Known as the Spice Island from the earliest times to the present day, Sri Lanka could be at the threshold of new vistas in the export of spices, particularly cinnamon.
Its cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, mace and vanilla already enjoy a sterling reputation in the international market. The island nation’s share of the world market can expand exponentially through innovative marketing.
By branding Sri Lankan spices afresh as “Ceylon Spices” and finding a place for them in the niche markets in India and worldwide, the traditional products’ profile can be enhanced further.
“Hari Bol” is on the job, exploring the possibility of buying Sri Lankan spices for the high-end Indian chains and ISKCON temples worldwide.
Popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, ISKCON promotes non-violence, animal welfare, vegetarianism, devotion to God and selfless service to mankind. Currently, ISKCON has over 900 major centres, temples and rural communities, nearly one hundred affiliated vegetarian restaurants, and running one of the world’s largest mid-day meals programs across schools in India,thousands of local meeting groups, a wide variety of community projects, and millions of congregational members worldwide.
These centres will be points of sale for Hari Bol’s products, which are presently in the dairy segment as well as ready-to-eat direct from kitchens of ISKCON.
Hari Bol has made a name for itself through its high-quality milk and ghee produced under hygienic conditions and the intervention of AI and IoT devices in its farms; and farm-to-folk end-to-end transparency in the system. More importantly, it creates a fool proof mechanism for saving cows from slaughtering after the milking cycle.
It is the first in India, if not in the world, to have live data on the cows transmitted to the end user. This is because it has tie-ups with high-end Indian retail outlets like Nature’s Basket.
But Hari Bol’s interest in Sri Lanka is not milk at the moment but in buying and exporting “Ceylon Spices” to niche markets in India and across 100 ISKCON temples worldwide, said Yachneet Pushkarna, CEO and Director of Hari Bol.
Though it is the commercial wing of ISKCON, Hari Bol’s mission is not entirely commercial. It is tempered by social and spiritual goals. While being a profit-making enterprise, it ploughs back its profits into schemes to empower farmers and others associated with its projects by providing them greater facilities, enhancing their skills and increasing their productivity as per ISKCON’s ideal of “Bhakti Yoga in Business” inspired by Dr.N.D.Desai founder of APAR Industries Ltd., Pushkarna said.
Mumbai Mission’s Help
A key participant in Haribol’s mission is the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Mumbai, which has been co-ordinating with Haribol, Indian supermarket chains and Sri Lankan spice dealers.
Pushkarna is impressed with the quality of Ceylon cinnamon which, he says, is the best in the world. According to him, Ceylon Cinnamon has the potential to beat the ones grown in other major cinnamon-growing and exporting countries.
Lankan spices are used to season, flavour and aromatise cuisines across the world. No wonder, 56% of Sri Lanka’s agricultural exports consist of spices, allied products and essential oils.
Ceylon Cinnamon, for example, has a remarkably low amount of coumarin, while Ceylon Pepper has the highest amount of piperine among the black pepper varieties found in the world.
Green cardamom from Sri Lanka is light green as it undergoes a unique treating method in barns which helps retain its light green colour and flavour.
Cinnamon is the third largest agriculture export from Sri Lanka with 31,000 hectares under cultivation employing nearly 400,000 people directly and indirectly.
The Export Development Board (EDB) holds the ownership of the “Pure Ceylon Cinnamon” (PCC) brand as well as other associated names such as “Ceylon Cinnamon”, “Sri Lanka Cinnamon” and Sri Lanka “Kurundu”.
The “Pure Ceylon Cinnamon” trademark is registered in the EU, Mexico, the USA, Peru and Colombia with the objective of differentiating it from Cassia.
Good quality cinnamon is an antioxidant that is good for health. The volatile oil of Cinnamon is widely used in perfumes, cosmetics and scented exotic gifts.
USA & Mexico are the main markets for Ceylon Cinnamon. Colombia, Equador, Peru, Spain, Gautemala, Chile and Bolivia are the other countries which consume a considerable amount of Ceylon Cinnamon.
In line with Pushkarna’s thinking, the Lankan government says that Ceylon Cinnamon has immense potential to penetrate the international niche market.
According to official figures, Sri Lanka’s export of cinnamon accounted for 18.18 % of the world market in 2020-21 earning US$ 31.7 million and was second only to Vietnam (29.2%; US$ 34.5 million).
Pepper is grown even in home gardens or is cultivated as a mid-range crop in Sri Lanka. It is cultivated mainly in low and mid regions with a cooler climate. Pepper is cultivated over 30,320 hectares in the island. Sri Lanka caters to 6% of the global demand for pepper.
Weather and soil have a greater effect on the taste of peppercorn and the level of piperine, the alkaloid responsible for the pungency and aroma of pepper.
Sri Lankan pepper has a high level of piperine, compared to the other pepper exporters in the world and has a taste quite similar to the renowned Malabar Pepper of India.
Black and white peppercorns are processed differently to bring out a different colour and strength.
The third most expensive spice in the world spice market and second only to saffron and vanilla, is cardamom. It was introduced to Sri Lanka by the British to meet the growing demand for cardamom in the global market.
Cultivated in the central hills of Sri Lanka, the area under cardamom is nearly 2794 hectares, producing an average of 320 metric tons per year. Sri Lanka today accounts for only 0.1% of the global market for cardamom.
Introduced to the country by ancient Arab spice traders, Ceylon Clove is grown in the mid-country wet zone of Sri Lanka. The country has nearly 7700 hectares under clove cultivation in Kandy, Kegalle and Matale districts.
Sri Lanka produces an average of 5301 metric tons of cloves per year and is among the top ten clove-exporting countries in the world market.
Sri Lanka exports a range of essential oils including Ceylon Cinnamon Oil, Pepper Oil, Cardamom Oil, Ceylon Citronella Oil, Clove Oil and Nutmeg Oil for markets in the USA, India, Singapore, Germany, and France, earning US$ 60 million.
Mainly used in perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations it is manufactured by four major distilleries, 12 small and medium scale distilleries as well as nearly 170 field distillation units.
Hari Bol has ambitious schemes for Sri Lanka, once the spice business establishes itself. According to Sri Lankan Consul General in Mumbai, Dr.V.K.Valsan, the ISKCON has a proven track record in women’s empowerment through both economic and skills development schemes.
One of their projects, the Govardhan Eco Village, has won the UN WTO award. Hari Bol’s profits could be ploughed into such schemes, he added.