Spices is one of the six focus sectors of IDH’s Fresh & Ingredients program, which provides cross-sector solutions on smallholder farmer livelihoods, working conditions, agrochemical use and climate change issues.In the Spices sector, IDH pioneered in the formation of the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI). This initiative was founded to secure the supply of authentic, natural and sustainable spices. Public and private partners work actively together towards making the production and trade of spices more sustainable.

The Market

The spice market is under increasing pressure. While demand increases, the spices sector is challenged by issues that affect the supply in both the long and short terms. While spice farmers turn to the production of other commodities, there is a growing need to control and trace the origin of the spices, and assure availability of food safe and good quality products. Sustainability issues are often at the origin of the issues, and awareness has grown on the need to address them directly with farmers.

Important issues for the sector are high use of agrochemicals leading to high residue level on the product in some key origins, contamination with allergens and micotoxins, product adulteration, etc.  Farmers and the sector at the same time face risks on health and safety, working conditions for women and migrants workers, child labor in some places, and overall the concern about livelihoods of the smallholders producing spices, leading farmers to leave spices farming. This drives the front-runners in the spices industry to look for better traceability and control, to get closer to farmers, and to help them with services and training to produce in a more sustainable way, keeping them in business  and in the long run, helping them to improve their livelihoods.


The Sustainable Spices Initiative, hosted by IDH, brings together leading national and international processors, blenders, food industry/brands, retailers and NGOs to transform the sector sustainably. The spices coalition aims to be the predominant sustainability platform, by creating broad engagement, developing and benchmarking sustainability standards recognized by the market, implementing pilot projects leading to the first certified volumes, and sharing good practices and learnings. In recent years, local stakeholder collaboration has grown in the spices initiative, as several issues need a local approach, including intervention of (and collaboration with) local governments and market actors.

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