In June 2015, I had the pleasure to visit Manado and Siau island in North Sulawesi to observe the progress of EU support to nutmeg production. Siau has long been famous for its spices and in particular, nutmeg. Because of its fragrance and oil quality, nutmeg here is known as the best in the world. After a three and a half hour trip from Manado, I arrived in a small harbour of Siau island, together with colleagues from the EU, Indonesian ministries’ officials, and journalists. Surrounded by a seemingly endless sea and many other islands, the view from Siau was amazing. In the background, the Karangetang volcano valleys covered by a green rainforest became visible. I could not believe that this tiny island is the biggest nutmeg producer, accounting for 60% of Indonesia’s total exports worldwide. In Siau island, 80% of the population is employed in the nutmeg sector, making it the main income source for almost all inhabitants of the island. Recently and due to questionable post-harvesting methods in this region, concerns about food safety and the quality of nutmeg arose in the EU. This led to declining market demand in Europe as well as lower buying prices at farmers’ level in the last few years, eventually threatening livelihoods on the island. The EU funded pilot project that I was visiting has aimed to address such issues and support nutmeg farmers, traders and exporters in improving the quality of nutmeg. Within the next few days, my colleagues and I visited nutmeg plantations, drying houses and processing sites. We also had discussions with key actors of the Siau nutmeg supply chain, many farmers and local government including the Head of Sitaro regency, Mr. Tony Supit. Given that most of Siau residents and their families depend on nutmeg cultivation, expectations for the EU project and how it would improve nutmeg supply in Siau had been high.
I soon found out that there are many positive results already: improved post-harvesting methods, better understanding of actors about sustainable supply chain mechanisms and improved awareness of farmers to quality standards. Exports are now more in compliance with EU regulations and have reached global competitiveness. This is not only beneficial for local industry and farmers, but also for Europeans who can safely consume nutmeg of the highest standards. After two intense days, we got on a speedboat which brought us back to the mainland. We left this remote and tropical island behind us – a small place with a massive impact on the European nutmeg market. Overall, it was great to observe the second phase of the EU Trade Support Programme in action – one example among many EU efforts that support development in Indonesia. The European Trade Support Programme 2 (TSP 2) is a four year programme (2011-2015) with a budget of EUR 15 million aiming at improving export quality infrastructure (EQI) in Indonesia. Among its different activities, it supports pilot projects in nutmeg (North Sulawesi) and cocoa supply chain (South Sulawesi). For more information please visit www.tsp2.com