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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Essential oils: New industrial opportunity emerges!

  • ZANZIBAR farmers now have new opportunity to make a fortune from cloves and eucalyptus cultivation thanks to the envisaged revamping of the underperforming Clove Distillery in Pemba.
The deal, signed last month between the Zanzibar State Trading Company (ZSTC) and Chinese investors, Aroma Asian Company Limited, is among initiatives taken by the government of Zanzibar to transform her economy and that of individual farmers.ZSTC Director Dr Said Seif Mzee and Chairman of Kunshan Asia Aroma Corporation Ltd, Mr John Zhou put ink to a paper to seal the deal, whereby the Chinese firm is set to inject around 5million USD (about 11bn/-) initially for the installation of a new machine, capable of distilling two varieties of essential oils concurrently.

Apart from transforming the essential oils distillery, located in the suburb of Machomane in Chake Chake, the 10-year partnership will also benefit Zanzibar through importation of crucial knowledge and technology. The renovation of the only major essential oils industry in Zanzibar is expected to stimulate bulky production of cloves and eucalyptus as key raw materials for the production of highly-demanded essential oils.

And that means even eucalyptus growers in the Mainland could benefit by selling raw materials to the distillery. Currently, the industry is capable of manufacturing only one type of oiliness at a time.

According to ZSTC Director, Dr Mzee, the distillery mostly produces clove oil while occasionally producing other essential oils such eucalyptus, cinnamon, and lemongrass. Mr Zhou, whose firm has been the biggest buyer of Zanzibar oiliness over the last one year, is however adamant everything will change in the near future amid his company’s ambitious plan to transform the Zanzibar aroma industry.

He says within the next few years, they envisage turning the Indian Ocean Isles into a leading supplier and exporter of essential oils in the region. “Our target is to see Zanzibar becomes a top essential oil producer in East and Central African region in five-year’ time and we’re very confident we’ll accomplish that,” he says.

Zanzibar Trade and Industries Ambassador Amina Salum Ali is excited about the future of the aroma industry, oozing confidence that the revival of the Pemba distillery will open up more job opportunities to Zanzibari’s along the production and value added chain.

She says the farmers should seize the opportunity by working hard on the fields and ensure they improve their production of cloves and eucalyptus, adding that the investors will need larger quantities of raw materials to run the industry profitably.

“The distillery will use agricultural raw materials, at the start they want cloves buds and eucalyptus, this is certainly going to boost the agricultural sector as well as farmers’ income,” says Ambassador Ali.

As part of the agreement, Zanzibar is required to meet the investor’s demand of 2,000 tonnes of clove buds and 1,000 tonnes of eucalyptus per annum from the next five years. ZSCT currently produces only 60 tonnes of clove buds but the minister is confident that with more efforts in cloves and eucalyptus cultivation across Zanzibar, the target would be met.

“It’s a big call but we’re optimistic of achieving that target over time, we’ll gradually increase our production,” she says adding; “in order to produce 2000 tons of clove buds, we need to produce 20,000 tons of cloves per annum.”

She, thus, urges Zanzibari’s to embrace the opportunity by working hard on their fields and ensure they increase the production of cloves and eucalyptus, saying a reliable market for their produces will be readily available.

Ambassador Ali notes even eucalyptus growers in Mainland Tanzania could enjoy a new market for eucalyptus leaves, which are currently regarded useless. “In the Mainland, people grow eucalyptus trees solely for timber, firewood, and building materials, the leaves are dumped but these are important raw materials for our distillery,” she says.

Mr Hassan Khamis Hafidh is the Deputy Minister for Trade and Industries. He believes the renovation of the Pemba cloves distillery is the right step towards realizing Zanzibar’s dream to become a middle income country. “An industrialized Zanzibar is possible,” he says but warns that the farmers must work harder to ensure availability o sustainable raw materials.

Urban West Regional Commissioner, Mr Ayoub Mahmoud Mohamed, shares the optimism expressed by his compatriots. Claiming that the envisaged investment at clove distillery industry will eventually speed up economic development in South Pemba and other parts of the Zanzibar Islands.

“The industry will have multiplying effects on the economy; it’s a great opportunity for our farmers all over Zanzibar to produce the required raw materials and in so doing they would be guaranteed of good revenues, thus, boosting their economy,” Mr Mohamed says.

The production of cloves in Zanzibar has declined significantly over the past few decades. Currently only between 4,500 and 5,600 tons are harvested annually, which means there is a deficit of at least 15,000 tons to meet the target by the new investors.

Aged trees and the cutting of the same as energy sources are some of the reasons cited for the decline and the government has of recently been taking measures to improve the production of the crop, which remain one the major foreign currency earner for Zanzibar.

This year the government has planned to distribute at least one million clove plants to individual farmers in Pemba and Unguja free of charge as well as supply the seedlings to government-owned farms located in Pemba. Eucalyptus is also cultivated in Zanzibar for commercial purposes but in small quantity.

To boost the crop’s cultivation, Mr Zhou says his firm will bring in 1,000 seedlings as part of the agreement signed with the ZSTC. Zanzibar currently produces and exports two types of eucalyptus oils; eucalyptus citriodora oil which is colourles to pale yellow with the active ingredient of citronellal and eucalyptus camaldulensis which has a pale yellow color with the active ingredient.

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