Beware! You may end up buying Chinese cinnamon

Beware! You may end up buying Chinese cinnamon
Highlights

The next time you buy cinnamon to spice up your cuisine think twice. You may well be buying cassia, which is often palmed off as cinnamon by local stores.

Hyderabad: The next time you buy cinnamon to spice up your cuisine think twice. You may well be buying cassia, which is often palmed off as cinnamon by local stores.

The strong aroma of cassia looks and feels like cinnamon, which is popularly known as ‘dalichini’ locally. Cassia, which is imported from Vietnam, China and Indonesia, comes at quarter the price of cinnamon but is harmful as prolonged use can damage the liver. Cassia contains coumarin which is a chemical used making rat poison.

Cassia has flooded the markets in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. A visit to Begum Bazaar, the hotspot for spices in the city revealed that the price of ‘cinnamon’ is available from Rs 250 per kg to as low as Rs 150 per kg.

But the actual cost of original cinnamon is not less than Rs 340 per kg. Sashi Kumar, scientist, Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR) said, “There is no way cinnamon can be sold for Rs 150 per kg. The Spices Board has communicated to the Government of India to ban the imports but cassia is still available in Indian markets.”

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the aromatic cousin is passed off as cinnamon. Several shop owners said that cinnamon is imported from Vietnam. When asked if they knew that it could be cassia which is harmful to health, shop owners feigned ignorance.

An employee of Balaji Ramswaroop in Begum Bazar said that the spice was available for Rs 200 per kg and if purchased in bulk he would reduce the price further. An employee of Poornachander Grain and Kirana Merchants at Osmangunj in the Old City said, “People do not want to pay much for cinnamon. Vietnam ka maal sastha hain.”

According to estimates, production in India is falling each year as cultivating cinnamon is turning unprofitable. At the most, the production is 80 -100 tonnes but the demand exceeds 10,000 tonnes, said Sashi Kumar.

Cinnamomum verum considered as true cinnamon is essentially a peel of a plant. Almost 90 per cent of cinnamon comes from Vietnam. European countries have banned cassia but imports continue in India. Experts opined that there needs to be awareness among people.

Traders said that they have no choice but to sell the Vietnam and Chinese products as there was no alternative at the moment. Rakesh, (name changed on request) said, “People are not willing to spend Rs 350 per kg. Traders only go by what is pushed into the market.”

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