The Golden Spice on the Global Market

The Golden Spice on the Global Market

Once you start looking, you will find traces of Turmeric in places you wouldn’t usually suspect. Apart from the established culinary position it occupies as an integral part of curries and gravies, Turmeric is used widely as a food coloring in bakeries to embellish delicacies with a vibrant yellow hue. Outside the world of food, it has traces that can be found in cosmetics and dyes, with international cosmetic giants like Kiehl’s using Turmeric in their formulae, and natural Turmeric dyes making their way back into clothes racks.[1]

Society is transitioning to become more conscious of what they consume, and a growing segment of people are looking to switch out a lifestyle laden with chemicals for a more natural way of living. Conglomerates have taken note, with companies such as Kraft Foods replacing artificial food coloring in their distinctively orange Mac and Cheese with Turmeric.[2] This led to parents across the United States celebrating a move that allowed their children to indulge without consuming harmful substances. Turmeric also was cleverly adapted by brands across the world to lend color to other foodstuffs such as cheese, mustards, and yogurts.[3]

As more people become aware of the plethora of benefits Turmeric brings and its varied applications, we can also witness a global rise in demand. At the epicenter of this universe where Turmeric is produced, exported, and imported in mammoth quantities, lies India, where Turmeric is both a part of ancient wisdom and modern commerce.

In 2018, India was both the top exporter and importer of Turmeric, something that may seem like an oxymoron.[4] As an exporter, it took lead at $192M, ahead of Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Netherlands. India’s indigenous varieties are numerous, yet the ones that dominate the market are Madras and Alleppey Turmeric. These are sold as dried rhizomes, turmeric powder, oleoresins, or curry powder.[5] Southern cities such as Erode and Nizamabad, along with cities such as Sangli in Maharashtra produce the bulk of production, often causing large fluctuations in prices on account of a change in acreage or yield.[6]

Since India produces as well as exports Turmeric in such colossal quantities, it being the largest importer of the spice comes as a surprise. In 2018, it imported $42.8M worth of turmeric, followed by the United States, Iran, Germany, and the United Kingdom.[7]

The Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) delineated the reason for India’s high import rate, and have narrowed it down to price differences in markets, and qualitative differences in curcumin and oleoresin content.[8] Curcumin is the bright yellow chemical in Turmeric that imparts it the deep color, and oleoresin is an extract for turmeric that is used in food flavoring and coloring. Retail consumers are just one market segment that utilizes the spice, the others include food processing and extraction industries that strive to be competitive by lowering their costs. They import Turmeric from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Myanmar primarily due to the price difference, with rates in domestic markets leveling at Rs. 117 per kg, versus imported turmeric at Rs 87 per kg.[9]

As the demand and value of Turmeric continues to rise, and the pressure to produce higher quantities of yellow rhizomes increases, countries such as Bangladesh have noted severe adulteration with the addition of chemical lead chromate, used to impart a sunny yellow in paints.[10] Controlling the quality, with adequate testing and laws can prevent these adulterated products from entering our food chain.

To improve India’s competitiveness in the global market, State Governments in India have begun to analyze policies that can secure growth and production. Farmers need stability for a market that faces volatility due to climate change, while consumers need quality assurance. States such as Telangana are introducing a Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for Turmeric farmers to reduce exploitation by middlemen.[11] Meanwhile, the government of Andhra Pradesh is working with the tribal farms in the Chintapalli region to develop a value chain of high-value, high-curcumin content Turmeric.[12] Such activities can pave the way to securing India’s place on the world market. Today, with the global scales in a delicate balance, India can harness the spice’s limitless potential to empower communities and benefit customers by building better value chains, and business models.


[1] "19 Turmeric Skin Care Products - Allure." 9 Oct. 2018, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[2] "Kraft Mac & Cheese Says Goodbye to The Dye - NBC News." 20 Apr. 2015, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[3] "Food Color & Dyeing Agent - Curcumin Times." Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[4] "Turmeric (curcuma) (HS: 091030) Product Trade ... - OEC." Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[5] "turmeric - Food and Agriculture Organization." Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[6] "Turmeric Outlook, January 2019 - pjtsau." Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[7] "Turmeric (curcuma) (HS: 091030) Product Trade ... - OEC." Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[8] "Why India's turmeric industry needs a healing touch - India ...." 2 Jun. 2020, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[9] Ibid
[10] "Some turmeric, wellness potion of the moment, may owe its ...." 28 Sep. 2019, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[11] "With Telangana govt. fixing MSP, turmeric farmers may get ...." 9 Mar. 2020, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.
[12] "Andhra Pradesh government to increase turmeric output with ...." 8 Apr. 2020, Accessed 25 Nov. 2020.


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