By Martha Nickson

Dar es Salaam. Zanzibar’s earnings from clove exports rose nearly three-fold, to $50 million in the year ending November 2021, as prices and volume exported to the global market increased.

The monthly economic review of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) for December 2021 shows that the value of clove exports was $50.7 million (Sh116.103 billion) compared to $18.2 million (Sh41.86 billion) garnered in 2020.

The central bank report indicates that the prices in the world market increased from $4,831 per tonne in 2020 to $7,413.1 while the volume increased by 81.5 percent.

Data from the BoT shows that as of November 2019, only $2.3 million was collected as compared to $18.3 million earned in 2018. Furthermore, data shows that $48.1 million collected as of November 2017 from cloves exports.

However, data from the Statista shows that Zanzibar which is the major cloves producer is recovering from cloves declining production witnessed in 2018 when only 675.2 tonnes was produced.

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The 2018 production was 7,602 tonnes low as compared to 8,277.2 tonnes produced in 2017.

But, the trend was attractive in 2015 and 2016 when 3,322 and 4,678.7 tonnes of the produce were gathered in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

However, a final draft report of the study on the clove industry prepared by the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government provides different for the decline.

They include declining numbers and competition from other cash crops, abandoning the crop over political reasons, harvesting related challenges, inadequate labour supply and the use of poor harvesting technologies.

Other reasons are absence of a cloves research institution, higher harvesting costs and presence of marketing related challenges. According to report, cloves face higher competition from other cash crops like seaweed, chillies and copra in terms of human, financial and land resources, despite constituting an important share in the Isles economy.

“The economic life of clove trees is estimated to be over 100 years, with optimum tree yield is expected to be reached between 30 and 40 years,” reads the document in part.

Report says clove farmers in Unguja and Pemba took no significant measures to plant new trees as existing ones became old, therefore leading to decline of crop production.

According to the report, Zanzibar was estimated to have clove tree population of over five million between 1950/51 and 1959/60 respectively.

“Nearly four million trees were in Pemba, while the remaining 1.3 million were in Unguja. However, the number declined by 44 percent to 2.85 million reaching 1980/81 and 1989/90 respectively,” according to the 2003 report.

Furthermore, the report says that between 1990/91 and 1999/2000, the archipelago of Zanzibar faced a 60 percent decline in clove tree population to 2.055 million. According to the report, clove production declined from an average of 12.408 tonnes to 6.225 tonnes between 1950/51 and 1959/60 to 1980/81-1989/90. Production decline continued to 4,805 tonnes reaching 1990/91 to 1999/2000.

Government response

The Zanzibar State Trade Cooperation (ZSTC) director Said Seif Mzee told The Citizen that several interventions are being made by the government including annual planting of one million clove seedlings. “Farmers are provided clove seedlings for free during the initiative that has seen an average four million planted trees since the commencement of the government’s exercise,” he said.

He said despite production fluctuations, price decline to about Sh3,500 per kilo inflicted smuggling with some farmers destroying their farms, noting that since 2011 the price has been maintained at Sh14,000 for Grade I; Sh13,000 for Grade II and Sh12,000 for Grade III.

According to him, instead of leasing through auctions; key players are now given the right to own and produce the crop in government owned farms.

He said the government targets was to produce 10,000 tonnes of the crop this year, noting however, after recording the 8,000 tonnes production in the 2021/22, hopes are high that the dream will come true.

“Cloves is the opportunity for farmers to improve their economy and that of the country. The crop gives the highest price than any other, therefore, citizens should increase production and sell through ZSTC mandated to ensure the merchandise benefits the RGZ,” said Mr Mzee.

Cloves farming

In Unguja, clove trees thriveson the deep `kidongo’ soils, but are widely grown on the reddish `mchanga’ soils, according to government documents.

“The crop grows well in Pemba, mostly on “bopwe”, “utasi” and “semi-utasi” soils making the Isles a suitable place for production of the crop leading to a wider spreading of the plant,” according to the report.

But, Mr Mzee told The Citizen that cloves is grown under moderate temperature condition.“Clove seeds take four years and a half to five to start giving yields. The crop is harvested twice between June and July as well as November and December,” he said.

Failure to use fertiliser

The document says clove trees positively respond to fertilizers and that trials have shown that sulphate of ammonia significantly increases clove yields, improving canopy structure and bringing forward the age of bearing.

“However, the use of fertilizer is not common in Zanzibar. But farmers need to be made aware of the positive effects of fertilizers application,” reads the report, adding: “However, it should be made clear to them that it is only worth applying fertilizer when its cost is more than covered by increased clove yields and by increased tree health.”

Clove benefits

Mr Mzee says clove seeds are used as medicine in reducing inflammations and catalysts in food digestion especially to people with hearts complications.

The crop is also used in checking nausea and vomiting mostly to patients with complications as those experienced by expectant mothers and treatment of colds and sore throats.

“Cloves also have tonic and antiseptic properties, therefore preventing teeth decay as it acts as the mouth purifier,” according to the document.

In the cultural aspects, clove is an essential ingredient in the preparation of betel-nut chew, a unique habit to the Indian sub-continent where millions of people are addicted to it, says the report. “In the spice value, clove is used extensively in culinary art which are essential ingredients in the preparation of mixed spices for the table and in the manufacture of curry powder which is a common practice for oriental households,” reads the report in part.

Report says that the crop is used in the confectionary, food processing and preservation and that in the western households it is used in various meat dishes, sauces and pickles, in desserts and in beverages. “During the Christmas season, cloves are popular in Nordic countries and Germany for baking and preparing special cakes and hot wine punch called “Glogg”,” says report.

Furthermore, the document says cloves is also used in Indonesia in the manufacture of cloves flavoured cigarettes called “kretek” as they crackle when lighted. The cigarettes are the ones dictating todays’ higher prices of cloves globally as smoking is a predominant habit in Indonesia, US and Latin American countries.

Study recommendations

The report recommended development of the Clove Development Programme (CDP); promote local processing of cloves and its products; promote the use of new harvesting technologies and launch education campaign on land issues.

Other recommendations are promoting establishment of rural savings and credit cooperative societies; provision of a conductive atmosphere for development of the private sector and reform the clove marketing system.

Exporting countries

He said while India is the major country of export, others are Indonesia, Madagascar and the Netherland.

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