Caraway seeds look almost like cumin seeds. Although they look the same but belong to different families. Cumin (Cuminumcyminum) locally known as 'zeera' is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae. These two are not only different in their tastes but also uses in cooking.
The caraway spice is produced in different countries of the world including India, Egypt and Vietnam. This seed is now being sold in the country's market mixed with cumin seeds. The cumin market has been volatile for a long time due to bringing caraway seeds by announcing the import of spices in a legal way. Caraway mixed cumin is being sold in the market at a lower price than the actual price of cumin imported from India and Afghanistan.
Traders at Kahtunganj in Chattogram - the country's largest consumer goods wholesale market, claimed that in collusion with some importers, the traders are selling caraway mixed with cumin seeds. Retailers are unable to identify the difference as they look exactly the same. As a result, consumers are buying caraway seeds assuming cumin seeds at a relatively low price.
Cumin's distinctive flavor is strong and has a warm aroma due to its essential oil content. Although caraway seeds do not have their own scent, they are difficult to distinguish when mixed with real cumin. Clone cumin is being sold at a lower price by mixing one bag of caraway seeds with one bag of cumin seeds. As the price is lower than that of ordinary cumin, some traders are buying new cumin and selling it in the retail and wholesale markets. As a result, the legitimate importers of this sector have suffered huge losses for the last two years by importing cumin in the country.
According to customs, the HS code for caraway seed is 09096190. In the seven months till January of 2019-20 fiscal year, a total of 2,521.26 tonnes of caraway seeds have been imported through Chittagong Customs. The import price of caraway seeds imported at that time was Tk 71 per kg. The total import price is Tk 82, including 15 percent duty. Again, 3,533.74 tonnes of caraway seeds were imported in the fiscal year 2020-21 at Tk. 66 a kg. If the duty is calculated, the price per kg is Tk 76. But at the same time, the import price of cumin imported in the country is around Tk 240 to Tk 250 per kg. A group of unscrupulous traders is making huge profits by selling cumin seeds in the wholesale market mixing with caraway seeds.
Nazim Uddin, a proprietor in Khatunganj, complained that some traders are selling cumin seed mixed with caraway at a low price to rural traders. As a result, many traders are not able to sell cumin seeds, even after having them in stock, due to loss. Even if stocks increase in the market ahead of Ramadan, there is no other way but to incur losses due to falling prices. The concerned authority should stop importing caraway seeds through customs. Otherwise, in addition to health risks due to adulteration, the country's spice market will lose its balance by reducing cumin imports.