Sustainable Spices Initiative
The SSI is an international sector wide consortium founded in 2010 by The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and aims to transform the mainstream spice industry into a more sustainable market, thereby securing future sourcing and boost economic growth in producing countries.
The SSI is supported by a consortium of leading players in the European spice market – Nedspice, Euroma, Intertaste, Verstegen, Unispices, Cassia Co-op, McCormick, etc. Together with the civil society organizations, Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Cordaid and Both Ends the following ambitions have been defined:
Poor agricultural practices, lack of adequate processing facilities and growers switching to high-value crops or jobs, have caused an increase in the number of concerns around spices production especially over long-term supply, food safety and traceability. Additionally, the sector also deals with sustainability issues such as uncontrolled pesticide use, poor wastewater management and deplorable labor conditions.
While it is true that the demand for sustainable spices and sustainability as a whole is growing, it is also true that companies face many difficulties in organizing their value chains to meet this demand.
Theory of change
By ensuring long-term demand of good quality and sustainable spices at a fair price, spice production will become more attractive for smallholder farmers and the farmer, by following sustainable practices, will significantly reduce the negative impacts on the environment.
This means that the sustainable production of spices becomes an important element in a diversified farmer livelihood strategy, strengthening smallholder households' economic resilience.
To address sustainability issues in the spices supply chain, the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI) has started up a sustainability initiative that should result in:
This should lead to an economic boost for farmers, processors, traders and retailers, and to securing the future supply base of natural spices.
Nedspice believes that sustainability is one of the main challenges for the food industry in the years ahead. Pulled by global market developments smallholder farmers increasingly shift to other, more valuable sources of income. In addition, many young farmers are leaving agriculture and migrate to urban areas for jobs in non-agricultural sectors.
These trends are also felt in the spice sector where many, often aging, smallholder farmers move to high intensive crops. Not only does this affect the scarcity of spices, it also negatively affects the environment – high intensive monoculture farm systems cause serious land degradation, pollution and erosion issues – and the communities that suffer from health problems due to the use of chemicals in such systems. In order to maximize their yields small scale spice farmers are also increasingly pushed to apply high-intensive agricultural practices and chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in their farming systems. Lack of knowledge regarding sustainable agricultural practices, low quality input supply and lack of improved technologies keep yields low. Other constraints are water stress, fluctuating farmgate prices and weak supply linkages between farmers and exporters.
As a result spice production could harm local communities and at consumer-level affect food safety. Since Nedspice sources from farmers these are all issues that affect Nedspice as well. The wellbeing of our suppliers and stability of supply is therefore crucial to us as well as to our customers and endconsumers. To ensure that spice farming remains financially attractive and offers a sustainable livelihood for farmers Nedspice has the ambition to develop backward integration programmes for farmers in Vietnam and India and other countries where we work. In line with this Nedspice started to establish partnerships in 2012/2013 with farmers and other supporting organizations in Vietnam and India and joined the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI), a sector initiative founded by various stakeholders in the spice industry. You can download our NFPP brochure and our NFPP update.
During Q4 of 2012 Nedspice started to implement the first phase of its long term sustainability strategy for pepper. This first step entailed working with a group of 700 farmers in Binh Phuoc province, Vietnam, to produce 1000 tons of sustainable pepper. Nedspice engaged with SNV, a Dutch non-governmental organization, to set up training programs and work with the farmers. It is foreseen that, building on the experience gained, similar projects will be started in other regions in Vietnam.
As part of the Sustainable Spices Initiative Nedspice developped, together with Rainforest Alliance, a sustainability standard for pepper in Vietnam. This standard is based on the well know SAN standard (Sustainable Agriculture Network).
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) promotes efficient agriculture, biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development by creating social and environmental standards. SAN fosters best management practices across agricultural value chains by encouraging farmers to comply with SAN standards and by motivating supply chain participants and consumers to support sustainability.
The objective of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard is to provide a measure of each farm’s social and environmental performance and agricultural management practices. Compliance is evaluated by audits that measure the degree of the farm’s conformity to environmental, social and agricultural practices indicated in the standard criteria.
The sustainable agriculture standard consists of ten principles. Each principle is made up of criteria. The criteria describe good practices for social, environmental and agricultural management, and are evaluated by the certification process.
The 10 principles can be listed as follows:
Social and Environmental management system
Fair treatment and good working conditions for workers
Occupational health and safety
Integrated crop management
Soil management and conservation
Integrated waste management
The Sustainable cumin programme was started under the Nedspice Farmers Partnership Programme in Rajasthan state, India. The project was taken up in 4 villages, comprising 44 farmers with 440 hectares of land with a production of 300 MT in 2013/14.
The overall aim is to encourage farmers to make cultivation practices more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, integrate producers into long term cooperation with Nedspice’s value chain, and ultimately to provide good quality cumin to meet increasing customer demand. This will improve productivity which increases farmers income and thereby contributes to the improvement of their livelihoods. They are also introduced to water saving techniques and taught how to release less nitrogen into the atmosphere, which will improve their living conditions and reduce investment costs. Finally, farmers will receive a price premium from Nedspice.
This project was successfully implemented with Nedspice sustainable agricultural principles and Sustainable Supplier status under USAC was obtained during 2014.
During 2013 Sustainable Turmeric Farming was taken up in two districts of Andhra Pradesh in a two-year pilot project in collaboration with Agrasia Impex. The overall aim is to encourage farmers to make cultivation practices more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, integrate producers into long term cooperation with Nedspice’s value chain, and ultimately to provide good quality turmeric to meet increasing customer demand.
Sixty farmers, amounting to 120 hectares of land, will be assisted in good agricultural practices. This will improve their productivity which increases their income and thereby contributes to the improvement of their livelihoods. They are also introduced to water saving techniques and taught how to release less nitrogen into the atmosphere, which will improve their living conditions and reduce investment costs. Finally, farmers will receive a price premium from Nedspice. The project aims at cultivating and delivering 500 MT of turmeric annually.
During Q3 of 2014 Sustainable Supplier status was attained under the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code and Scheme rules (USAC).