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56th anniversary: How cloves back revolutionary regimes

AS Zanzibar celebrates the 56th anniversary of Revolution, it’s a good time to reflect on how cloves, one of the major sources of income helped the country to sustain its economic growth.

For more than a century, but mainly in the past five decades, after Revolution on January 12, 1964 Zanzibar’s economy relied on cloves which was introduced in 1818 and with Zanzibar’s tropical climate and fertile soil, plantations thrived.

Zanzibar became the largest producer of the spice and its highest trade commodity, until the production and sales relatively dropped in the 1980s/1990s. Cloves have benefited almost all regimes, contributing highly to the development of the country.

In his 8-year of leadership, the founding Father of the Nation, President Abeid Amani Abeid Karume developed Zanzibar faster, enabling the government to declare health and education free for all. The famous improved housing at Michenzani Street and other areas of Zanzibar are some of the examples of how the cloves have benefited the people of Zanzibar.

The second regime under President Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi also benefited from the cloves as the government got funds to establish light industries in the country and also improve social services. Other regimes: Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Sheikh Idriss Abdulwakil continued to rely on cloves.

Retired President, Dr Salmin Amour Juma and Dr Amani Abeid Karume also valued the crop with some reforms aiming at improving production. But the seventh regime under President Ali Mohamed Shein has made great strides in cloves trade by revolutionising the crop to benefit the government and farmers.

While celebrating admirable achievements in democracy, infrastructure, health, education and agriculture in the past 56 years, people also talk about how cloves have changed their livelihood. The Zanzibar State Trade Corporation (ZSTC), being the sole buyer, pays farmers well!

Many people particularly in Pemba, where clove is mostly grown, have good houses and financial ability to care for their families, including school needs for children. The ability to care for family is linked to money from cloves.

“Cloves have been everything for us in life. After successful reforms in cloves industry, we now see it as a ‘rescuer’ because we are better off financially than in the past,” Mr Kombo Haji, a farmer in Pemba says.

ZSTC is among the first few parastatals to be established after the Revolution and it was formed 1968 under the Public Institutions Act No 1 of 1966 through Government Notice No 39 to replace Clove Growers Association (CGA) which was managing crop production.

CGA has been sustainably working hard to improve cloves and also buy other farm products, prioritising business crops seaweed and chilli before liberalising crops, leaving cloves under the control of ZSTC. President Ali Mohamed Shein says in addition to the tourism sector, Zanzibar economy still relies on agriculture, mainly spices, led by cloves, the main source of foreign currency for about 150 years.

According to the economic survey 2017, the sector of agriculture contributes 27.9 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with cloves making 34 per cent of the percentage, while “cloves alone contribute 8.7 per cent of the GDP.”

In 1990s sales of cloves and production dropped due to fluctuation of sales globally, making farmers lose interest in farming cloves. “Fortunately, despite unstable prices in the world market, the government continued buying cloves from farmers,” said Dr Shein at a recent gathering to mark 51st anniversary of ZSTC.

He said 10 years’ strategic plan and reforms from the beginning of the seventh regime in 2010 had borne good fruit. Under a reform programme, the government enacted the ZSTC Act No 11 of 2011 and the Cloves Development Fund (CDF) Act No 2, of 2014 and the policy.

Through the enforcement of the CDF, the ZSTC encouraged farmers to improve cloves production and quality leading to an increase in production. About one million cloves seedlings are grown and distributed to farmers free of charge, but growth is hampered by effects of climate change, causing premature drying or death of the seedlings.

President Shein’s government raised cloves’ price from 3,500/- to 14,000/- per kilogramme of first grade along with waging war on smuggling of cloves outside the country. After roaring success in improving cloves, ZSTC has started a process to brand and also think about value addition.

Cloves are graded into grades 1, 2, 3 and 4, but most of Zanzibar’s cloves are grade 1 and 2 and rarely grade 3. Grade 4 is virtually non-existent. The grades in the 2017/18 crop season were: Grade I was sold at 14,000/- per kilo, Grade II at 12,000 per kilo and grade III which was sold at 10,000/- per kilo.

In the past seven years (2011/2012-2017/2018), 31,085.60 tonnes of cloves valued more than 437.1bn/- was bought from farmers compared to 2004-2011 when 19,209.13 tonnes fetched 53.3bn/-. More than 29,424.17 tonnes were exported, fetching more than 531.6bn/- (or more than $285.6m).

“Due to good returns from cloves, all people - farmers, traders and part-time workers engaged in the business have better lives,” Dr Shein said as he thanked farmers for contributing to the country’s development. The money has been spent on education, health, roads, electricity and other infrastructure.

He commended ZSTC staff for protecting and adding value to cloves by improving the Clove Buds Oil factory in Wawi, Chakechake Pemba. The factory is now under a joint venture with Kunshan Asia Aroma Corp Ltd of China.

But to further enhance cloves, the President advised ZSTC to conduct research on modern agricultural practices and value addition to earn more from cloves and other spices grown in the country. Dr Shein also urged people to embrace the crop, saying it was a high value crop that could sustainably help boost household incomes and the country’s GDP.

Minister for Trade and Industries Amina Salum Ali said ZSTC was targeting to increase export volumes by encouraging farmers to grow more cloves and improve the quality of the crop brought to Zanzibar about 200 years ago from Indonesia.

“We look forward to another 50 years of success in cloves business,” Ms Ali said as ZSTC Managing Director, Dr Said Seif Mzee, praised his co-workers for admirable performance in the past half century, vowing to double efforts in increasing production and sales.

Retired leaders of Zanzibar, including former Presidents of Zanzibar and other people who played a big role in promoting cloves, were awarded in recognition of their support for cloves development.

“We are very happy this year to celebrate success in developing cloves along with the Revolution anniversary. We hope our target to harvest 10,000 tonnes of cloves by 2020 is possible,” Dr Mzee said after the harvest of about 8,000 tonnes in 2017/18.

Zanzibar’s cloves, is regarded by many buyers abroad as the best quality, but Indonesia is the biggest producer with more than 60,000 tonnes a year. Other producers are Madagascar, Comoro Island, India, Sri Lanka and Brazil.

Author: SUNDAY NEWS Reporter in Zanzibar

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