Canada's Spice Industry
The term spice refers to any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning. It differs from culinary herbs, in that the parts of importance are the seed, bark, and flowers of plants, rather than the leaves. The differentiation between culinary herbs and spices is limited, as often the same plant yields both. Spices originated in the Far East with China being the historic supplier of ginger, Indonesia supplying the world with cinnamon and nutmeg, and India being a major source of cumin and turmeric.
Canadian spices belong primarily to the Umbelliferae, Labiatae, Asteraceae, and Compositae families. The two major spice crops grown in Canada are caraway and coriander; however, other Canadian spices include anise, cumin, dill, and fenugreek. Canada currently produces spices native to its forested regions as well as spices introduced from foreign territories. Canadian spices are also susceptible to many diseases such as alternaria blight, aster yellows, fusarium, phoma blight, and sclerotinia, which can affect quality and yield.
Canadian spice production is centred in Western Canada, primarily Saskatchewan. Canadian spices are grown on a vast area with the use of traditional farming equipment, similar to cereal crops. Clean fields are essential for successful production as spices germinate slowly and do not compete successfully with weeds. Also, due to the large number of spice crops grown in Canada, producers must be aware of the growing requirements for each specific crop.
Spices can be marketed in the following forms: whole spice seeds, ground spices, essential oils, and oleoresins. The global spice industry has been growing recently at an annual rate of 3-4% for the following reasons: increased demand for ethnic foods, innovation in beverage products, growth in processed food consumption, healthy lifestyles leading to an increased use of spices for natural flavouring, the desire to make functional foods more palatable, and increasing demand for natural fragrances driven by public concern over health and allergic reactions.
Unlike many sectors in the herb, spice, and medicinal plant industry, the Canadian spice industry is quite structured and organized. Spice producers generally sell their crops to agents who in turn sell them to brokers. The brokers then sell the spices to either spice millers or blenders. The primary role of brokers is to collect spice crops from growers and to ensure that millers and blenders receive good quality spices. The millers and blender buy raw or ground spices from brokers and further process and blend the spices. The products produced by the millers and blenders are sold to meat processors, bakers, condiment producers, canners, snack food producers, and other food processors.
For the latest market information and analysis available from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, please consult the following publications:
Please note that the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association is the secretariat for the National Herb and Spice Coalition. For more information, please contact the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association
Alberta Natural Health Agriculture Network (ANHAN)
P.O. Box 67314, Hawkstone RPO,
Edmonton, AB, T6M 0J4,
Tel: 780-986-0262 or 1-888-986-0262
Western Canadian Organic Herb and Spice Association
P.O. Box 16
Contact: Fran Lequire
Aromatic, Culinary and Medicinal Crops
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development