IV. Spices and condiments


1. Nutmeg and mace
2. Cinnamon and cassia
3. Cardamom
4. Galanga


A variety of spices and condiments originate from forests and cultivated trees. Most of them are consumed locally. Some of the spices like nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and cassia are of substantial commercial importance, and have been discussed over here.

1. Nutmeg and mace

Nutmeg of commerce is a seed of Myristica fragrans and mace is the aril that surrounds the seed. Nutmeg is an evergreen tree belonging to the family Myrticaceae. It is indigenous to Moluccas in Indonesia, but is now found in other countries like Grenada, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The commercial products of the tree are nutmegs, mace, their essential oils, extracted oleoresins, and nutmeg butter. However, nutmeg and mace account for the greater part of the trade. Nutmeg butter is prepared by extracting nutmeg fats. It is, however, a very minor product, consumed mainly in the source countries. Only very small quantities are exported.

Indonesia is the largest world producer of nutmeg and mace and accounts for three-quarters of world production and export. Grenada is the second largest producer and exporter. Their products are classified broadly as East Indian and West Indian, respectively. Indonesia produced 15,800 tonnes of nutmeg during 1990, whereas Grenada produced 2,700 tonnes and 200 tonnes of nutmeg and mace, respectively, in 19911.

1 Fruit and Tropical Products, 1992.

Indonesian exports of nutmeg and mace rose in 1991 to 7,335 tonne; and 1,547 tonnes, respectively, compared with 6,391 tonnes and 1,050 tonnes in 1990. Grenada's nutmeg exports declined from 1,675 tonnes in 1990 to 1,574 tonnes in 1991, but export of mace rose to 249 tonnes from 204 tonnes in 1990. Grenada is facing a problem of over production and surplus stocks and is exploring possibilities of extracting trimyristin from nutmegs.

Nutmeg market is facing depression and prices are persistently falling, primarily because of oversupply. In August 1992, its price in London market was £ 1,115 per tonne, falling to the lowest point in two years. Mace prices, on the other hand, improved attaining a peak of £ 3,645 per tonne in November 1992, compared with £ 2,915 per tonne in June 1992.

2. Cinnamon and cassia

True cinnamon and cassia spices are the prepared, dried bark of the trees belonging to genus Cinnamomum, indigenous to South and South-East Asia and China. True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum which originates from Sri Lanka and Southern India has been introduced to many other areas, notably Madagascar and the Seychelles.

The major Cassia species of international importance are C. cassia (China), C. burmannii (Indonesia) and C. loureirii (Vietnam). C. tamale is also traded, but is considered to be of inferior quality (Smith, 1986). A classification system has been evolved on the basis of species and origin, because each type has distinctive flavour and other characteristics.

Cinnamon and cassia are often used interchangeably. Their major uses are in bakery, meat seasoning, fish spice, preserved fruit and vegetables, curry powders, beverages, tea, desserts, and some pharmaceuticals.

World trade in cinnamon is between 7,500 to 10,000 tonnes annually. Sri Lanka contributes 80 to 90 percent, most of the remaining balance coming from Seychelles and Madagascar (Smith, 1986). The world trade in cassia is between 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes annually, of which Indonesia accounts for two-thirds and China most of the remainder. Minor producers include Vietnam and India. About 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of cassia bark are exported from Vietnam annually (de Beer, 1993).

The United States is the largest importer of cinnamon and cassia. It imported 10,291 tonnes (valued about US$ 22 million) and 13,898 tonnes (valued about US$ 26 million) of cassia and cinnamon (ground) during 1990 and 1991, respectively. The European Community's total imports of these products rose from 5,452 tonnes valued at 10.6 million ECU in 1990 to 6,388 tonnes valued at 11.2 million ECU in 1991. The main sources of EEC imports in 1991 were Indonesia (36%), Malagasy Republic (21%), Sri Lanka (11%), China (6%), Seychelles (1%) and other countries (15%). Japan also increased its imports from 1,967 tonnes at 780 million Yen in 1990 to 2,034 tonnes in 1991, but in value term this dropped to 644 million Yen. China is the main supplier to Japan. Vietnam also exported 248 tonnes to Japan in 1991 .

Fruit and Tropical Products, December 1992.

Prices of Cassia (Chinese whole) rose from £ 1,390 per tonne in London early in 1992 to £ 1,657 per tonne in November. Cinnamon prices also rose to £ 861 per tonne for Seychelles bark and £ 760 per tonne for Madagascar bark in November 1992. Average current prices (US$/tonne; cif) at main North European ports are as follows :

Cinnamon


Seychelles

1,275

Madagascar

1,150

Madagascar


Chinese whole

5,200

Indonesian KBBC

1,500

The Public Ledger's Commodity Week, July 3 1993.

3. Cardamom

Although true cardamom (Eleuttaria cardamommum) is a perennial cultivated herb, false cardamom or bastard cardamom are obtained from Afromomum spp. in Africa and Amomum spp. in South East Asia.

Amomum sp. is a herb, growing under forest cover, whose seeds are used as a spice. In Laos, it grows naturally and is also cultivated in some parts of the country. In Cambodia, it occurs in the Cardamom mountains. A small quantity of cardamom is also produced from wild sources in North Vietnam, and some 10 tonnes are exported to Japan, Hongkong and Singapore. Laos exports 400 tonnes or more of cardamom per year via Thailand and China. Cambodia used to be an important exporter in the past, but no known quantities of the product enter the trade from this country today (de Beer, 1993). The market price of true Guatemalan cardamom ranges between US$ 5.50 to 12.00 per kg (cif) . No information on sp. could be collected.

The Public Ledger's Commodity Week, July 3 1993.

4. Galanga

Galanga is a herbaceous plant (Alpinia officinarum) occurring naturally in Vietnam and Laos, but is also cultivated in home gardens. The root is used in Vietnamese and Lao cuisine as a ginger like spice. It is also used in local medicine. There is a market for galanga in Asia, while some small quantities are imported by Netherlands (de Beer, 1993).