We talked to Giridhar Rao, Director Sustainable Spices & Herbs at Griffith Foods, about promoting sustainable agriculture, sourcing spices from India, supporting smallholder farmers on the subcontinent, and how it requires collaboration to achieve all that.
How do you define sustainable agriculture?
“Sustainable agriculture means farming in such a way that you don’t take any resources away from the next generation. In fact, sustainability goes a long way in giving that assurance to farmers because it’s a well-rounded development, and not just going for maximum yield or anything like that.”
Since you’re responsible for spices and herbs at » Griffith Foods, could you tell us something about sourcing spices from India?
“At the moment, the market in India is rather unorganized, with lots of local players, and only around 10% of spices are sold as branded products. So there’s lot of potential for the market to grow both in terms of value addition and also in terms of educating consumers for better quality of spices. Another big issue is the big gap between international standards and the produce sold in India.”
It’s often difficult to achieve international standards, especially for smallholder farmers. What other challenges are smallholders facing in India?
“The main challenge they face is that they don’t have access to good agricultural practices and don’t get the proper advice on the crop protection solutions or seeds they need to use. That’s why we as a company spend a lot of time and effort giving access to such resources. In addition, a lot of people in India believe that small land is not good. But if you look at Vietnam, for example, where the average landholding is just 1 to 1.5 hectares, farmers are doing very well. Therefore, we don’t need to have large farms – smallholder farms can also be successful.”
How important is certification for enabling market access for farmers?
“Certification is very important, because consumers need assurance that all the standards have been followed. That’s why we’ve been working with international organizations such as » Rainforest Alliance to get our farms certified. This was a real challenge because of the sheer number of farmers. So, we jointly developed what is known as the group certification, where a group of 200 or 300 farmers are treated as one entity.”
Speaking of partnerships: How important is collaboration?
“The way I see it, every company faces limitation. In order to maximize the benefits, we need to collaborate – not only to widen the scope of benefits but also to speed them up. That way we can move toward faster solutions and reach a larger group of farmers. That’s why we’re always keen on collaborating with companies such as Bayer or, for example, being part of the » Sustainable Spices Initiative.”
Can you tell us a bit about your partnership with Bayer?
“We’ve been working with Bayer in India for the last two years. The partnership includes mainly training farmers in choosing the right crop protection product with the right dosage and how to identify pests. On top of that, we also train farmers on precautions while spraying, and Bayer has helped us by contributing protective clothing for the farmers. We’re very happy about our collaboration with Bayer. It has helped us a lot since we are not agricultural scientists, so we need this kind of help.”