Today marks the 55th anniversary of the 1964 revolution and the 50th anniversary of improvement of the clove business or since the Zanzibar State Trade Corporation (ZSTC) was established to manage the industry.
These are two landmark moments in Zanzibar’s history where the challenges particularly regarding political suppression by the colonial regime was put to end followed by improvement in democracy, infrastructure and agriculture – clove being the mainstay of the economy.
People widely talk about achievements in various development programmes in more than five decades of political independence, but put special focus on cloves because it has changed their livelihood.
Beside the benefits in nation building, individual persons in Pemba where the vast clove is grown are celebrating successes to have good houses and the financial ability in improving their welfare.
“Cloves have been everything for us in life. After successful reforms in the industry, we now see it as a ‘rescuer’ because we are better off financially than in the past,” says Kombo Haji, a farmer in Pemba.
ZSTC is among the first parastatals to be established after the revolution, and it was formed in 1968 under the Public Institutions Act No 1 of 1966 to replace the Clove Growers Association (CGA).
The corporation has been sustainably working hard to improve cloves and also to buy other crops like seaweed and chillies.
President Ali Mohamed Shein says in addition to tourism, Zanzibar’s economy still relies on agriculture, the main source of foreign currency for about 150 years.
According to survey of 2017, agriculture contributes 27.9 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In the 1990s clove sales and production dropped due to fluctuation of sales globally, leading to farmers losing interest.
“Fortunately, despite unstable prices in the world market, the government continued to buy cloves from farmers,” said Dr Shein at a recent meeting to mark 50 years of ZSTC.
Under the reform programmes, the government crafted a new law ZSTC No 11 of 2011. Through implementation of the Clove Development Fund (CDF), ZSTC managed to encourage farmers improve production and quality.
Between 300,000 and 500,000 clove seedlings are grown and distributed to farmers free-of-charge.
The government raised the price of cloves from 5,000/- to 14,000/- per kilogramme of the first grade along with strengthening the war against illegal export of cloves.
Cloves are graded into Grade 1, 2, 3 and 4, but most of the Zanzibar cloves fetch grade 1 and 2 and rarely grade 3.
Grade 4 is virtually non-existent. The grades that exist during the 2017/18 crop season are Grade I sold at 14, 000/- per kilo, Grade II at 12, 000/-and grade III at 10,000/-.
In the past seven years (2011/2012–2017/2018), a total of 31,085.60 tonnes of cloves valued more than 437.1bn/-were bought from farmers compared to the period of 2004-2011 when a total of 19,209.13 tonnes worth 53.3bn/-were bought.
More than 29,424.17 tonnes were exported fetching 531.6bn/-(or more than USD 285. 6 million).
“Due to good returns from cloves, farmers, traders, parttime workers engaged in the business have better life financially,” Dr Shein said.
He commended ZSTC workers for the good work in protecting cloves and upgrading the crops along efforts towards value addition by improving the clove Buds Oil factory in Wawi, Chakechake, Pemba.
The factory is now under joint venture with Kunshan Asia Aroma Corp Ltd of China. To further enhance cloves, President Shein advised ZSTC to embark on researches for modern agricultural practices and value addition.
Minister for Trade and Industries Amina Salum Ali said ZSTC was targeting to increase clove export volumes by encouraging/ motivating farmers.
“We look forward to another 50 years of success in the clove business,” the minister said. 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.
“We are very happy this year to celebrate the success in developing cloves along with the revolution anniversary.
We hope our target harvest 10,000 tonnes by year 2020 would be possible,” Dr Mzee said. Zanzibar’s cloves are regarded by buyers abroad as of best quality.