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Spices and Exotics Market Analysis

Spices have played a key role in most traditional gastronomy for centuries, leading the development of commercial wars over hundreds of years. The spices and exotics categories that sell in the highest volumes today include chilli, pepper, cardamom, vanilla, saffron, cloves, ginger and honey. Currently, there are several trends that are leading growth in this sector: emerging growers such as Brazil and Vietnam; consumption trends combining spicy flavours and health; the economic and population growth India, which has been the largest grower for many categories for centuries, turning it into a colossal importer that in turn leads many price trends.

Key facts about the global spices and exotics market
  • Vietnam and Brazil have gained substantial market share in the pepper market in last decade to become the largest exporters, leading current low prices due to huge carry-over stocks.
  • Guatemala is the main cardamom exporter, with Middle Eastern countries and India being the main importers.
  • Price fluctuations in the vanilla market are led by weather in Madagascar and a lack of modernisation of its industry.
  • Saffron is very scarce, as Iran is the main grower and is suffering strong commercial restrictions due to geopolitical conflict with the US.
  • The industry is controlled by traders, mainly in the US and Central Europe, many of them specialised in specific products. Major players include Olam International, Catz International and Sabater Spices.

Key themes affecting the spices and exotics food market

Pepper prices will be stable for a long time due to huge carry-over stocks in Vietnam and Brazil, as will chilli in India, Mexico and China; and scarce products such as cloves, vanilla, etc. high prices will be maintained in the long-term, especially for reliable suppliers fulfilling minimum residue level (MRL) requirements in the EU and the US, although non reliable will suffer low prices and adulteration problems. Honey prices are led by China, which offers low quality product, other origins such as Mexico and Brazil facing poor crops due to unfavourable weather and competition from alternative crops such as soya or almonds) and low prices. As a result, the global spice market is becoming dual: large importers such as China and India, demanding large volumes and low prices; the EU, the US, Canada or Japan demanding high-quality product and increasing its organic demand, being available to pay higher prices. Some scarce products such as vanilla, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, cassia or cinnamon will maintain high prices because new plantations take long to come into production (mainly from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Madagascar, Tanzania or Guatemala). In addition, their commercial networks are still controlled by traditional traders which are accustomed to working directly in their origins, which are not only badly communicated but also becoming unsafe, especially Madagascar, where there are frequent vanilla plantation robberies.

Average yearly prices from IEG Vu
20152016201720182019
Chinese Dehydrated GarlicTop Grade Garlic Granules,cfrNW Europe (USD/tonne)2,7003,8934,1723,6744,369
Madagascan VanillaExtra Type Grade, fob Vohemar (USD/kg)125307528565458
Vietnamese Black PepperMin. 550 g/l,exwNW Europe (USD/Tonne)9,6568,0934,8933,0732,707
Indian Chilli S4,cifNW Europe (USD/tonne)2,5022,7252,0281,8001,800

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