Spice producers and exporters in
Sector stakeholders in the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to form the East African Spice Producers and Exporters Association (Easpea).
The collaboration idea was mooted last July in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, during a market tour of exporters from the two countries designed to acquaint them with the demand and supply realities of the lucrative European market, currently worth about US$651mn annually.
According to the MoU, Easpea, whose formal inauguration date has not been set, will be preceded by the formation of national spices producers and exporters’ associations in Tanzania and Uganda.
The individual associations, which will be mainly required to work out strategies for enhancing the sustainability and growth of the spices industry, will then form Easpea as an umbrella organisation.
When it becomes operational, Easpea will have seven main objectives, which include building a common marketing strategy to build a brand image for East African spices and a common logistic approach in terms of transport to external markets. The association will also seek to work out the long-term development of the sector in the member countries.
It will also target a common production and extension strategy to assist the growers to reach international quality standards and delivery schedules. Another pivotal objective is to have a common quality assurance laboratory to check the quality of the different spices where appropriate.
As part of promotion and development of the sector in the region, Tanzania has formed a Spices Sector Development Strategy and is in the process of setting up the Tanzania Spices Producers and Exporters Association under the auspices of the Board of External Trade (Bet).
The main spice producing areas are Tanga, Mbeya, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro, Zanzibar, Kigoma, Coastal region, Kagera, Arusha, Iringa, Singida and Dodoma. The major spices produced in these areas are cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, chilli and pepper. Others are cloves, onions, vanilla, cumin, coriander, paprika, mustard and nutmeg.
According to the Bet review, spice yields in Tanzania are generally low due to poor genetic material and incompetent management; so is the quality of the produce due to both poor handling as well as the harvesting of immature crops.
Sector stakeholders say that, after the demise of the state-owned General Agricultural Products Export Corporation in the mid 1980s, the performance of the sector suffered seriously as farmers found themselves without a reliable market for their produce.
Only recently, during the 2001/02 budget speech, did the government recognise spices as a strategic sector in the fight against poverty.
From 1995 to 1997, annual world imports averaged 500,000 tones and have been growing at an average of 8.5% annually.
Tanzania, Madagascar and the Comoros are among developing countries that earn a substantial part of their foreign exchange from spices, for which the US and Western Europe continue to be the most important markets.