Our aims at Spice Origin are to source small producers of organic spices. We support marginalised farmers directly by cutting out the wasted expense of archaic distribution channels, so the farmer achieves a fairer price for his hard earned harvest, and you enjoy a higher quality product of proven provenance.
In India, the organic spice movement is a response to decades of a failed agricultural policy which 60% of the agrarian Indian population rely on. The desperate situation still sees 16.5k suicides of Indian farmers every year. To put this into perspective this is 2.5 times the total number of suicides in the UK.
“India has the highest number of suicides in the World” Source World Health Organisation 2014
There are still many challenges for farmers choosing to move to a multi-cropping, organic farm. Whilst it promises a more sustainable future, yields are lower and there is little demand for a premium priced organic spice product in the domestic market.
Spice Origin aims to source from these farmers directly, giving them the best price for their produce, cutting out the middlemen as much as we can, and deliver our customers the highest quality, freshest organic or naturally produced spices in a socially responsible manner.
Here’s the full story…
The Green Revolution
During the 1960s, India was unable to feed its ever-increasing population. Yields on commercial farms were reasonable but not enough land was being farmed to sustain the growing number of hungry mouths. The Central Government acted on this issue and rolled out an agricultural programme promoting the use of external chemical inputs to increase the fertility of the soil and deal with problems of pests and plant diseases. This ‘Green Revolution’, as it became known, saw the growth of commercial farms and especially an increase in yields. Farmers were encouraged to mono-crop and provided with subsidised chemical inputs to ensure a continuous yield. By the mid-1980s, India was producing enough basic foodstuffs to feed its people.
By this stage, the commercialisation of farming and the level of complicity with agro-business and government meant that the policy was not adjusted. Despite clear evidence of the decline in quality of the soils and degradation of the surrounding environment as a result of leeching of these chemicals into water systems, the economic imperative was encouraged to continue. Commodity prices for coffee, cashew and other plantation crops were high.
Where did it all go wrong?
By the mid-1990s, the result of the Green Revolution for the smaller farmer was becoming clear. The lack of traditional practices such as crop rotation and application of natural fertiliser and mulch was having devastating effects on the land. Soils were dry and airy, reliant on expensive chemical input fertilisers to produce anything much at all. The widespread use of chemical pesticides had affected vulnerable ecosystems as well as wiping out the natural pollinators. Any natural ‘immune system’ that the land may have had was compromised.
Farmers were now reliant on external inputs which they could just about afford and still put food on the table. But then, commodity prices started to drop. Suddenly the money coming in from selling the produce at market was not covering the expenses going out. Debt. Money-lenders. Further drop in prices. More debt. Desperation.
By the end of the decade a wave of farmer suicides began to spread across India. The combination of indebtedness and realisation that the land was naturally infertile was too much for many to bear. The sole breadwinners on whom large extended families were relying chose to end their lives. The implications for those left behind were further indebtedness, poverty and all the social ills that go with it.
In the early 2000s, a number of NGOs began to form in response to this crisis. The realisation was that this dependence on external chemical inputs was in danger of crippling India’s food production. With government too entrenched with large agro-chemical business, the chance of change from above was scant. The solution needed to come at grass roots level.
The problem faced by those trying to tackle the issue was how to persuade farmers that there was a viable alternative. Thirty years of indoctrination had lead a generation to believe that these external inputs were necessary to productive farming. With the depleted soils and no financial ability to allow soils rest time to recover, how were they going to farm any other way?
As a small-scale farmer, to convert to organic farming is a minimum three-year process in the course of which your production will certainly drop significantly. There is also no guarantee that you will be able to get back to the yield levels that you had before even after three years. But the long term prospects are favourable and we hope, sustainable.
We hope you and us at Spice Origin can make a difference, however small!
In the meantime, enjoy the freshest, natural and organic spices on the market :-)