Two hundred years after the abolishment of the clove monopoly of the VOC (United East Indies Trading Company) by the Dutch Government, the Indonesian government is trying hard to monopolise the trade in clove for their own benefit.
Though Indonesia is still the largest producer of clove in the world, large quantities have to be imported to satisfy the ever-growing demand in the kretek cigarette industry. The kretek (traditionally a spiced tobacco, self-rolled cigarette) is by far the most popular smoke in the country. Another reason for importing clove from other countries like Zanzibar is the much cheaper price of the Zanzibar variety.
The kretek producers, being the biggest buyers of clove, could, till a few years ago, manipulate the price of this important kretek ingredient to their advantage. The Indonesian government is now trying to get a grip on this multi-million dollar spice trade.
On the 1st January, 1991, the clove monopoly was effectively reinstated by the government by proclaiming that all clove trade should be handled by the Agency for Control and Distribution of Clove (PPPC). Hutomo Mandala Putera or Tommy - youngest son of President Suharto became chairman of the organization.
On 1st February, 1991, the government announced new minimum prices for the various qualities of clove. The cigarette producers, unhappy with the latest move of monopolistic price control, started to import clove illegally from Singapore. This in turn caused a drop in the local minimum price.
In parliament, Tommy Suharto tried to get a motion through to burn half the clove crop in the Moluccas. This caused an uproar in parliament and Tommy was accused of using two hundred year old VOC methods.
This year, the Indonesian government had to introduce more changes in their clove policies, which resulted in an even greater drop of income for the already hard hit clove farmers. In the Moluccas, one wonders if growing clove will be attractive ever again.
Some figures about kretek production:
In 1992, the twenty biggest kretek cigarette makers in Indonesia produced 59.7 billion cigarettes, which was 2.2% less than the previous year. The tax that the government received over that period was roughly 2 billion American dollars.
An estimate for the 1993 usage of clove in the industry is 80,000 ton, of which the bulk will be used by the factories on Java. The rest goes to the cigarette producers of North and Central Sulawesi and Maluku (Moluccas).
THE CLOVE TREE, Eugenia caryophyllata, (Synonym: Eugenia aromatica)
It is a small tropical tree of the family Myrtaceae, and the name 'clove' was given to the dried flower buds of this tree which is native to the Moluccas or Spice Islands.
The dried buds are mainly used as spices. The name comes from the French word for nail because of the shape of the flower bud. The tree's purplish-coloured flowers grow on jointed stalks. The buds of these flowers are called clove, and are picked before they open. They have a reddish colour when freshly picked but turn dark brown when dried.
Cloves have a fragrant odour and warm, sharp taste. They are chiefly used in cooking. An oil taken from the buds and stem is used to flavour desserts and candies and to scent soap.
[According to the book The Practice of Aromatherapy, by Dr Jean Valnet, cloves essence can be used where there are: sores, infected wounds, ulcers and toothache.
It can be used as a mosquito and clothes moth repellent.
He says that 80 years ago, the antiseptic properties of essence of clove were used to disinfect places. He also says that clove was, for a long time, the most expensive of the spices and regarded as a panacea for centuries.
The Moluccas were swept by several previously unknown epidemics after the Dutch destroyed all the clove trees in Ternate.
In the old days, it was common that people used to stick cloves in oranges to protect themselves against contagion.
It has to be noted that essential oils are very strong and must be used with due care. Editor.]
DATE: September 1993
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