By Alawi Masare (THE CITIZEN)
Dar es Salaam — Tanzania has indicative prices for cotton, cashew nuts, and fuel but for cloves the pricing mechanism is different.
While the prices of fuel and the traditional crops are set by regulatory authorities, for cloves, the marketing body does it instead.
The spice – produced in Zanzibar – is one of the traditional exports but recently there have been reports of re-emergency of illegal exports.
However, producers desire the involvement in setting the indicative prices ahead of the harvesting season to increase transparency in pricing and probably end smuggling.
"We do not support smuggling as it does not benefit the producers and the society at large. It’s done by the middle men who seek quick cash profits," says Mr Abubakar Ali, the executive director of Zanzibar Cloves Producers Organization (ZACPO).
A kilogram of clove is currently sold at about Sh14,000 while organic clove attracts up to Sh20,000 per kilogram from Zanzibar State Trading Corporation (ZSTC).
Since the clove revival initiative started five years ago, smuggling of the cash crop out of the islands had almost declined. But there have of late been reports on the continuation of the illegal business.
The re-emerging illegal export of cloves from Zanzibar to a neighboring country has shocked the authorities with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar ordering increased crackdown efforts.
However, Mr Ali says the issue could be tamed if the government increased transparency in marketing of cloves through indicative prices setting which involves stakeholders.
He also suggests removing some overhead cost like roadblocks and reducing burden to the producers.
Tanzania generated $46.2 million from clove exports in the year ending June 2016 compared with $30.6 million recorded during the previous year.
However, its price in the world market slightly declined during the year as there was a weak global demand for the product.
Zanzibar’s value of exported goods and services had improved by 23.6 per cent to $226.7 million in June 2016 compared with $183.4 million recorded in June 2015.
Notably, goods exports increased by 51.5 per cent to $67.9 million owing to good performance of cloves exports.
Zanzibar State Trade Corporation (ZSTC) was recently quoted by the media as saying that as of mid-June 2016 it had bought 5,745 tonnes of cloves from farmers surpassing the projection of 5,500 tonnes.
"From my knowledge as agriculture expert, all cloves in Zanzibar are organic except that some quality control issues be observed," he says.
The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar has been maintaining that ZSTC gives the producers 80 per cent of the market prices of the cloves.
However, Mr Ali says the pricing system is not so transparent that farmers can know how much exactly they are supposed to earn.
ZSTC which is a public owned trading company, was established in 1968 and given the authority by the government to buy agricultural products such as cloves, copra, sea-shells, sea weds, chilies and selling such items abroad. Other related items it deals with include essential oils from the said cloves, eucalyptus oils, cinnamon leaf oils, lemongrass oil, clove stem and sweet basil oil.
"I remember last year, there was a ceremony of launching clove development fund whereby foreign clove buyers were invited among other stake holders. This could be seen as an opportunity for them to meet with producers to share information and somehow know each other and learn the process of marketing of cloves abroad," says Mr Ali.
The Portuguese and Chinese introduced spices such as garlic, cacao and chili to the islands several centuries ago.
But it was the Omani Sultan Seyyid Said — upon moving the capital of his empire Stone Town in 1840 — who fully exploited the potential of Zanzibar’s tropical climate and incredibly fertile soil.
The Sultan mandated the establishment of clove plantations on both public and private lands and forced Zanzibar’s slave population to grow and harvest the crops, fashioning the less than 1,000-square-mile archipelago into the world’s single largest cloves producer.
Cloves were traded like gold at the time — a staple prized not only for taste but as a common method of curing and preserving meats long before the advent of the refrigerator.
While cloves remain the archipelago’s leading domestic and economic product, its production numbers have been surpassed by other mega-suppliers such as Indonesia and Madagascar.
Zanzibar, as a result, has capitalized on its history as the world’s "Spice Islands" — a title also claimed by Indonesia’s Maluku archipelago — to become a popular destination for eco-tourists and food fans alike.