ZANZIBAR – Zanzibar has launched an investigation into a mysterious disease that is affecting the growth of cloves, the country’s major export crop, causing panic among farmers in Unguja and Pemba.

According to Zanzibar Minister for Trade and Industries Development, Mr. Omar Said Shaaban, the disease is causing wilting of clove leaves affecting more than 500,000 trees in the Unguja North region.

Cloves are a culinary ingredient used to spice savory dishes, desserts, and drinks, as well as in manufacturing toothpaste, soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, and cigarettes.

Cloves have been a major foreign exchange earner in Zanzibar for the last 150 years and they continue to be an agricultural mainstay on the island.

Agriculture stands as an important sector in the Zanzibar economy, and the sector supports over 70 percent of the island’s population for their livelihood, followed by trade and tourism.

“We need to speed up the investigation. I urge farmers to be calm. I hope we will soon identify the problem and solve it,” said the Minister after visiting some of the affected clove farms in North Unguja.

Mr. Ali Juma, a clove farmer in the region, explained that they started witnessing problems with clove growth in January this year, but did not have any idea about the disease, which is already frustrating them. “We need help from the government to intervene using its experts,” he appealed.

The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) data shows that the Isles’ value of the amount of clove exports decreased by 62.3 percent to US$14.94 million in September 2022 from US$39.62 million in the corresponding quarter in 2021.

The crop volume during the period was also low by 32.1 percent, as 2,100 tonnes were exported against 3,100 tonnes in 2021.

“The decline is related to the cyclical nature of the crop,” the central bank stated.

The impacts of ongoing unfavorable weather conditions are among the reasons that have affected seaweed production this year, according to the BoT.

The clove price fluctuated to reach US$10,963.3 per tonne in June 2022 before dropping to US$8,184.2 per tonne in September of that year.

Due to fluctuations in production and price in the country and world market, the Zanzibar government has been investing heavily in the sector by offering attractive prices to farmers of 15,000/- per kilogram, free distribution of clove seedlings, establishing a clove development Fund, and fight against illegal transport to neighboring countries.

The government initiated the initiative as a way of attracting more investment from farmers in planting more trees to revamp and increasing clove production for more exports and earnings.

“In 2023, we plan to sustain quality and production levels so that we can boost our exports and remain competitive on the global level,” said Zanzibar State Trading Corporation (ZSTC), Ali Mohammed.

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