To many foreigners, the name Zanzibar evokes an idea of an exotic, lavish, beautiful island, famed for it’s spices and sea trade. However great the spices are, the truth is far from beautiful. In contrast, the country is in poverty as well as decline. The country that is renowned in the spice trade for it’s production of top grade Cloves, is gradually in decline. Why?
The end consumer has no idea about where their spices come from, and why Zanzibar’s cloves are superior to those grown in other parts of the world. As Cloves are one of the most expensive spice commodities, in the last few decades many new producers have cropped up around the world, such as in Indonesia. These nations are able to mass produce the spice much more cheaply, however the Clove quality here can never match Clove’s natural origin in Zanzibar. Colour, smell and taste are all world’s apart, and most importers are well aware of this. However, when the end consumer does not know and often times does not know better, importers give up buying superior in order to have cheaper prices themselves.
As a result, despite the beautiful external perception of the country, Zanzibar is an extremely poor country: GDP per capita was around $660 in 2012.
The island is highly fertile, and offers potential to increase production of high quality spices. However, because the majority of production of cloves is sold into commodity markets and not direct retail, the origin of the spice is unknown to the end customer. In many cases, this superior quality clove is also mixed with other qualities to keep some of it’s benefits but costs low. Therefore, in addition to the external commercial pressure from larger production centres around the world, Cloves are also subject to price instability – meaning producers hesitate to grow for future seasons.
To counter this fall, the Government of Zanzibar has begun a process of supporting direct consumer sales, and encouraging producers to start branding their products. Producers have been encouraged, and helped to make ever higher grades of Cloves and other spices. Additionally, locals brands have emerged to sell consumer quantity packs of the Cloves at better margins to counter the problems of spice instability. Regency is also proud to say that our cloves come exlusively from Zanzibar’s Pemba Island (the best of the best), and in fact cloves from around this region were the first product we began importing with, back in 1951!
This new concept of branding the entire island is now under study by several organisations. The concept started in 2012, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out. As an added aid to producers, the government has also started branding workshops for small businesses on the island, with the aim that they can produce and sell a better product to the world, in competition with multinational spice brands.
Current price for Cloves from Pemba Island, Zanzibar:
50G (1.8 OZ) HKD 31 (USD 4)
200G (7.1 OZ) HKD 105 (USD 14)
500G (17.6 OZ) HKD 234 (USD 30)
If you are interested in importing cloves from Zanzibar in min quantity 1 ctn+, please refer to our group company, Orient Resources
Thanks to The International Trade Centre (http://intracen.org) for info / images.
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