Type to search

India Spice Traders Warn of Exports Plunge Amid Pesticide Probe

Hong Kong last month suspended sales of four spice blends and the UK’s food regulator has applied extra checks for all spice imports from India

A man adjusts the spice boxes of MDH and Everest on the shelf of a shop at a market in New Delhi, India, on April 29, 2024. Photo: Reuters


Indian spice traders have warned that spice exports could drop by 40% after two major brands were hit with contamination allegations over the use of a pesticide.

India is the world’s biggest exporter, consumer and producer of spices, and its spice exports came to $4 billion in the year from April 2022 to March 2023.

But the Federation of Indian Spice Stakeholders (FISS) said the industry has already seen buyers put some export orders on hold amid international scrutiny of two popular Indian brands – MDH and Everest.

Hong Kong last month suspended sales of three MDH spice blends and one from Everest citing high levels of the pesticide ethylene oxide, or ETO – a cancer risk in the event of long exposure.

The two companies both say their products, hugely popular in India and exported globally, are safe for consumption.


Also on AF: China Pins Hopes on ‘Heavyweight’ Property Sector Rescue Bid


“If other countries also start taking a similar stand, our spices exports could fall by 40%,” said Tejus Gandhi, the secretary of FISS, which represents 600 spice makers and exporters around the country.

Already, Britain’s food regulator has applied extra checks for all spice imports from India and the US, New Zealand and Australia are looking into the matter.

“Many countries are questioning… Lot of spices exporters have orders. They have been halted,” Gandhi said at a press briefing in Ahmedabad city in western India.

ETO can be used as a pesticide to help prevent microbial contamination. While some nations allow a small presence of ETO in spices, many completely prohibit it.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says regular exposure to ETO over many years raises the risk of cancers including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and lymphocytic leukemia, as well as breast cancer in women.

India’s Spices Board last month said the country has “stringent protocols and guidelines for ETO residue” and it will strictly monitor consignments going abroad.

The FISS said in a statement that ETO “is not harmful” without elaborating, while it added that: “ETO is extremely effective eliminating (pathogens in spices)”.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


Read more:

India Now the World’s Third Biggest Generator of Solar Power

China, Japan, India Economies Held Back by ‘Xenophobia’: Biden

India Seen Overhauling Japan as World’s No4 Economy – Nikkei

Vietnam, India Ramp up US Exports as China Share Falls – Caixin


Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


AF China Bond