It’s high time that Spices Board appoints a full-time chairman

The Centre must take immediate steps to appoint a person with experience in trade and export promotion as Spices Board full-time chairman, said a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in a report tabled in Parliament. The committee has expressed concern over Centre’s inability to appoint a full-time chairman to the Spices Board and fill up vacant positions of board members.

Marine Products Export Development Authority Chairman A Jayathilak has been doubling up as Spices Board Chairman since February 2014. The committee, headed by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav, said the Commerce Ministry has also failed to appoint new members to the Board despite the terms of earlier members ended several months ago. The Spices Board was set up about three decades ago to promote exports of spices, in which India is number one worldwide. In 2013-14, Indian spices accounted for 48 per cent share in terms of volume in global trade.

The parliamentary panel expressed surprise about over the under-representation of the north-eastern region in the Board, in spite of the region’s tremendous potential in the sector. Noting that the only two members represented North-East earlier were bureaucrats, the committee wanted the Ministry to rope in representatives of stakeholders, as they are more aware of the challenges and hardships faced by the sector. “The Spices Board should be more vibrant and representative of stakeholders rather than channelizing the views through bureaucrats,” it said.

Commerce Ministry should hold discussions with the Agriculture Ministry to transfer production and development of five major spices — turmeric, pepper, chilli, ginger and garlic — to the Board, on the same lines as cardamom. The panel also asked the Ministry to revisit the Spices Board Act, 1986 so that the Board can have the mandate of exclusive production and development of all the five major spices along with cardamom as well as their export promotion.

According to the committee, most Indian spices farmers lack awareness about pesticide residues in their produce, which is a major reason for the rejection of their produce in export markets. The Ministry should work closely with all spices-growing States to ensure that farmers take up good agricultural practices, it said. The quality certificates issued by the Spices Board were still not accepted the word over and, as a result, some consignments were rejected. The rejections need to be studied and corrective steps taken, they pointed out.

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