One of the essentials of an Indian kitchen is the “masala dabba”- a traditional spice box. It typically consists of small cups (usually five or seven) containing spices that are used in daily cooking. Whether it’s a soupy south Indian Rasam, a snack time Gujarati Dhokla, a sumptuous dessert in the Bengali Mishti Doi or the traditional tea in the Kashmiri Kahwa, spices are widely used in all parts of the country, across various courses. Spices are generally expensive when compared to other agricultural products. Saffron remains the most expensive spice. After Iran, India is the world’s leading producer of the coveted spice.
Indian spices are highly sought-after globally. Contrary to a decline in the country’s overall merchandise exports, spice exports increased by 23 percent in June 2020 compared to the same month last year. United States was the leading importer of Indian spices at a value of nearly 37 billion Indian rupees. Even as one of the leading exporters of spices, India imports certain spices, such as Asefotieda or hing. Hing, an essential ingredient in traditional cuisines, was imported from neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan. Recently, India started the cultivation of this spice variety, and if successful, this spice will be another feather in the cap for the country.
The spices are valued not only as a flavoring agent, but also for their medicinal properties. Traditionally, spices such as turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, to name a few, have been used in ayurvedic medicines along with various medicinal herbs and roots. Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic's onset has boosted the use of traditional remedies and increased dietary supplement intake to boost immunity. To promote the cultivation of high-value spices, intercropping with coconut groves was proposed in a few states to help to meet the growing demand of domestic and international markets.