Spices constitute an important group of agricultural commodities that are virtually indispensable to the art of cooking. They can be primarily defined as farm products used in various forms such as fresh, ripe, dried, broken, powdered etc. These forms contribute to aroma, taste, flavour, colour and pungency to food, rather than lone food seasoning factor. Spices may be either bark, buds, flowers, fruits, leaves, rhizomes, roots, seeds, stigmas and styles or the entire plant tops. They are well known as appetisers or preservatives and many of them have rich medicinal properties. They are also used in pharmaceutical, perfumery, cosmetic products, religious rituals etc.
The history of spices in India is perhaps as old as civilisation itself.
References to spices can be found in the Vedas, the Bible and the Quran. Spices not only occupy an important position in the agro-exports from India but are also inter-linked with Indian history, culture, religious practices and customs. Ayurveda, the indigenous system of Indian medicine, uses a large number of spices in its combination of preventive and curative medicines. History tells us that the quest for spices had put wind to the sails of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Chinese and Arabs. Trade in spices has existed for many centuries. Vasco de Gama set sail in 1498 and Portugal monopolised the pepper trade for the next two centuries.
Trading in spices is all set to increase because of changes in life style and food habits. Apart from rousing taste buds, therapeutically aspects of spices is gaining much importance, this is the main reason for increase in trade