Spices and herbs

Thousands of small scale farmers, dispersed in remote areas, grow spice and herbs. 

Below you can find out about:

Problems facing spice and herb producers

Since the early days of the spice and herb trade, the industry has become progressively more concentrated.

Since the early days of the spice and herb trade, the industry has become progressively more concentrated. Today, two firms dominate the global spice and herb market. McCormick and Company Inc, the largest firm in the industry, has a market share more than double that of its closest rival. The second largest global player, Tone Brothers Inc, is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods.

Fluctuating prices

In contrast to manufacturing where power is concentrated in the hands of a few, the growing of spice and herb crops is generally carried out by thousands of small scale farmers dispersed over remote areas. Although spices and herbs are best suited to small-holder production, small farming leaves producers vulnerable to many of the common problems in the agricultural trade. The demand and prices of spices and herbs fluctuate with global weather patterns, past production levels and changes in consumer and manufacturer preferences.

In recent years, an increase in the number of countries supplying spices and herbs has led to an overall drop in the market price. 

In recent years, an increase in the number of countries supplying spices and herbs has led to an overall drop in the market price.  These factors can make it very difficult for small-scale farmers to make a decent living. 

The market for black pepper, the most widely used spice in the world, provides a prime example of these challenges. Small-scale pepper growers face unreliable income because of significant fluctuations in the price. In the last decade they have also experienced an overall decline in the price of black pepper due to increased competition from new producing regions, particularly Vietnam. Today, the trading price of black pepper is lower than it was in 1990 and falls far short of production costs.

In 2005, FLO introduced Fairtrade standards for spice and herb production to open up new markets for the benefit of small farmers. Since the introduction of the standard, farmers who produce Fairtrade certified spices and herbs receive a Fairtrade price that covers their costs of sustainable production, as well as a Premium to invest in social and economic projects in their communities.

Benefits of Fairtrade for producers

The category of spices and herbs covers a number of different products. Fairtrade spices include vanilla, pepper, ginger, turmeric. Fairtrade herbs include lemongrass, lemon verbena, peppermint, celery and oregano.

Fairtrade Standards for spices and herbs ensure that:

  • Producers are small family farms organized in cooperatives (or associations) which they own and govern democratically.
  • The Minimum Price is paid directly to the producer cooperatives.
  • Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals, ban genetically modified plants, and encourage sustainability.
  • Pre-harvest lines of credit are given to the cooperatives if requested, of up to 60% of the purchase price.
  • A Fairtrade Premium is included in the purchase price and is used by cooperatives for social and economic investments such as education, health services, processing equipment, and loans to members.
  • No forced labour of any kind, including child labour.

To find out more about the Fairtrade Standards for spices and herbs, please download and read the full product Standard.

Fairtrade certified producers

To find out which producer organizations are currently certified to supply Fairtrade herbs and spices you can check the database on the FLO-CERT website.

Buying and selling Fairtrade spices and herbs

If you want to find out what products are available in your country, visit the website of your national Fairtrade organization. If you’re interested in selling Fairtrade spices and herbs in your country, see our information about selling Fairtrade.

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