Could arvensis production in India diminish to the point of insignificance?
Yes, it can. It has happened in three regions in the past 100 years with a minor difference that a new growing region replaced the incumbent and the global supply increased. 10 reasons why the next 25 years could be different?
- A better trade balance and higher foreign reserves diminish government’s support for a small cash crop like mint
- Food crops and bio-fuel are in greater demand for international security
- Deepening water table, expensive fuel, erratic rains make production expensive
- Rapidly declining demand for natural mint isolates (menthol, menthone’s’, esters)
- Increasing land and input prices do not justify the return on investment
- The increasing availability of high purity synthetic and nature-identical isolates
- Only marginal improvements in terms of yield and distillation efficiency over 50 years
- Limited research in new cultivars to meet the changing demand for de-mentholized oils (vs. crude arvensis)
- Rudimentary agricultural & distillation practices exposes the oil to residues and contamination
- High carbon footprint per unit of weight decreases appeal on the global stage
No, it will not. Following a very successful ramp up between 1970 and 2000, when India established itself as a leading supplier of natural, dependable and cost effective mint, the country appears to have lost its ‘mojo’ in the last 20 years and just like colonization, it is an endless debate as to whether India cannibalized its own success or was a victim of its success. India is a proven innovation powerhouse from inexpensive medical diagnostics, a successful space program, research in agriculture and increasing food supply and it is highly likely that India will re-establish its leadership in the natural mint supply chain. 5 reasons why and how it could happen?
- Suitable weather, soil and ‘fit’ with growers’ cropping cycle. Indisputable medium of non-perishable savings
- Distillation infrastructure and know-how with lots of room for efficiency gains
- Varietal research and expansion knowledge
- Sustainability programs by major intermediate and end-users
- Evolving trends for natural commodities
Unrelated to the number of reasons, I am of the opinion that the Indian mint industry will see a significant shift in the next few decades. As relevant as mint may be to the growers in India, production will decrease due to a net decrease in appetite for natural mint, allocation of agriculture resources to food production, better understanding of climate change, its causes and its impact and the availability of synthetic alternates. Unlike prior shifts, I don’t see another growing region or country to displace India but a different equilibrium between natural and synthetics in the future. This shift could make several stakeholders irrelevant and I call upon the entrepreneurs, researchers and growers to embrace change and write the next chapter in this evolution.
At Essex, we have been preparing for this landscape for a decade and while we don’t have all the solutions, we have a very good understanding of the challenge and the tools and agility to support our customers during the anticipated shift. We are developing a solution matrix that supports Indian production in the short term but focuses on discovering mint hybrids/fractions that can be used with synthetics or as standalone oils to replicate mint production at price points that account for inflation. In doing so, we plan to re-create our palette with building blocks that do not replicate the current but sets us apart due to the agility and performance of these building blocks. Having experimented with unconventional hybrids at the local level, it is highly likely that Essex could be a part of the global solution by expanding non-conventional arvensis varieties in India for value vs. volume.
25 August 2023