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A condiment is a substance (sauce, seasoning or vegetable) that is used to add flavour to food. Examples include mustard, ketchup, pepper sauce, barbecue sauce and pickle. Spices are the aromatic parts or seasonings of various plants and trees traditionally used to flavour food. Sometimes the term condiments is used to include spices.
Apart from flavouring food many spices are used for other purposes, such as in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics, perfumery.
Popular spices include:
And some spices come from the bark or roots of certain plants, but the majority are berries, seeds, or dried fruits.
Although spices have been used since ancient times, they are playing a new and important role in modern food preparation. They not only add unique flavours to our food, but contribute colour and variety as well. Certain spices and herbs used alone, or in blends, can replace or reduce salt and sugar in foods. Spices add very little nutritive value to foods and are generally low in calories, sodium, fat and cholesterol.
Origin of spices
Some spices such as allspice and chilies are native to parts of the Caribbean and Central America. While many of the world’s spices originated in tropical areas, over time, spices that originated in Asia were cultivated in Africa and the Caribbean.
Spices were also brought from Central America and cultivated in Asia and Africa. Presently, some countries specialise in the cultivation of specific spices. For instance:
The main CARICOM exporters in herbs and spices currently are:
The main spices and condiment crops produced in the CARICOM countries are:
The Caribbean has achieved some success in providing world class condiment and spice products to regional and global markets such as Angostura Bitters and Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning. However, Dr. André Gordon of CFS Technological Solutions Limited &TSL Technical Services Limited in a presentation to CARICOM entitled Herbs and Spices: Challenges and Investment Opportunities says that making further inroads in these markets requires a detailed understanding of the existing production capabilities and the requirements for each product category in the specific markets being targeted. He notes that successfully capitalising on opportunities will necessitate a different approach to what has traditionally been the case.
Dr. Gordon goes on to say that most of the enterprises operating within this sector are micro and small business which face a myriad of challenges. Collectively, he says, the sector will need to derive greater value from product differentiation, targeting of products to specific market niches and branding, among others.
Why invest in the production of condiments and spices?
CARICOM’s condiments and spices sector has strong export and growth potential. According to a Private Sector Trade Note by the Office of Trade Negotiations, sauces/mixed condiments trade is a robust international business opportunity for a number of reasons:
Condiment producers and processors
There are a number of condiment processors across the Caribbean including: