Khabar Southeast Asia

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Nutmeg trade booms in North Sulawesi

By Alisha Nurhayati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Manado, North Sulawesi

May 08, 2014

North Sulawesi nutmeg planter Hendri Kanine separates the nutmeg from its fuli (flower). [Fiqman/Khabar]

North Sulawesi nutmeg planter Hendri Kanine separates the nutmeg from its fuli (flower). [Fiqman/Khabar]

The spice trade has deep roots in Indonesian history: The Dutch arrived on Sulawesi in 17th century in search of spices.

Now more than 400 years later, the island still has a viable industry, a bounty of spices and in particular, a global trading market for its nutmeg.

According to North Sulawesi Plantation Services secretary Refly Ngantung, the island supplies approximately 70% of the world's nutmeg.

"Every year we provide at least 20,000 tonnes of nutmeg," he said. "This is also a good opportunity for our local people to compete in international markets and to open more job opportunities."

Refly noted Sitaro and Sangihe islands and the Taloud region produce most of the nutmeg.

"Even though Sulawesi is recently known as a hotbed for terrorism, especially in the Central area such as Poso, the rest is considered safe for business. North Sulawesi so far is safe. We are able to sell our products to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the US," Sulawesi resident Andreas Mamesak told Khabar Southeast Asia.

The safe atmosphere allows the province to exploit its extensive resources.

"Sulawesi is rich in natural resources, and therefore we are working hard to maintain and market our products," said nutmeg plantation worker Glen Kilapong.

Nutmeg is a major export, but the island also is rich in palm oil, coconut oil and fish, Olvie Atteng North Sulawesi Trade and Industry Affairs head told Khabar.

"We are exploring additional opportunities to market our products locally and internationally," he told Khabar.

Spice workers enjoy sweet inter-faith relations

People flock to work the plantations from all over, especially during North Sulawesi's dry season.

"I am originally from West Java but moved here ten years ago. I fell in love with the nature and I got a decent job at the plantation here in Manado," Bagus Ujang Pramono said. "I am not the only one from Java to live in Manado. I know hundreds of Javanese around here, and most of them are also living in tolerance."

Although the majority of Manado residents are Christians, people from all faiths co-exist peacefully, he added.

"We have a motto here locally known as 'Si Tou Timou Tumou Tou' – people live to enlighten the lives of others'," Manado State University student Isranti Suryani said. "I think this local philosophy is really touching. It gives the impression that no matter who we are, we are still looking forward to peace."

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