India: partnering with farmers to produce pungent and beautiful chillies
The perfect chilli pepper is the most pungent of natural ingredients and should catch the eye with its rich colour. But even in the traditional chilli-growing areas of southern India, farmers can struggle to produce crops of consistent quality as climate and soil conditions vary dramatically.
The patchwork nature of the local industry can also make it difficult to build a reliable chain of supply, explains Sumod, Givaudan’s category manager. “The sector consists of smallholder farmers who grow many different varieties. The lack of proper drying facilities to protect the crop from the rain and the temptation to abandon chilli in favour of other crops as prices fluctuate, all has an impact.” So, to secure a stable and long-term source of the best quality chilli, Givaudan formed a partnership with a local supplier.
Together we are implementing traceability in the chain and promoting more sustainable methods of production among farmers in Andhra Pradesh. The key, says Sumod, is to show farmers how good agricultural practices will actually improve quality and yield.
“We needed to help the chilli producers generate new value in their crops. When we looked at this, we found that with better growing and drying practices, including a more scientific approach to soil preparation, it was possible to improve the amount of chilli you can produce from a given area. So our task was to help the farmers take a step towards a more secure future for them and their families.”
In partnership with the local supplier, Givaudan designed a sourcing strategy to address the full chilli-growing cycle, from the nursery stage to harvesting and drying. “The first step is to promote good nursery practices,” says Sumod. “We want to ensure that farmers all grow the same variety in a uniform soil mix, by preparing their fields, analysing the soil and adjusting the use of fertiliser accordingly.”
The new approach is bearing fruit. For example the introduction of solar bubble dryers, a low-cost technology that provides a simple alternative to sun drying, has helped to eliminate losses caused by the weather. Despite these welcome improvements, says Sumod, it is necessary to go further.
“We have to do more to build trust with the farmers and their communities, and that really means being present on the ground, throughout the year.”
Many of the farmers live in remote villages where access to education or proper healthcare is limited; problems include fewer committed teachers, a lack of teaching materials and insufficient medical resources. So the programme offers support in the form of teacher training and the provision of school supplies; meanwhile doctors from the nearest hospitals have been engaged to give families free health checks in their villages.
“All of this work has a place in our sourcing strategy,” says Sumod. “This is what we call sourcing for shared value. It benefits everyone engaged in the production and supply of chilli and allows us to meet our customers’ demand for inspirational flavours.”