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The clove tree of Madagascar, a success story with an unpredictable future

Danthu P., Penot E., Ranoarisoa K.M., Rakotondravelo J.C., Michel I., Tiollier M., Michels T., Normand F., Razafimamonjison D.E.N.G., Fawbush F., Jahiel M.. 2014. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques (320) : p. 83-96.

The clove tree was introduced to Madagascar from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia at the beginning of the 19 th century. In spite of its sensitivity to hazards such as cyclones, a locally found pest known as andretra and year-on-year variability in the production of cloves, it has adapted surprisingly well to the ecological conditions on Madagascar's East coast, particularly the Analanjirofo Region. The species was adopted very rapidly by farmers (some settlers but mostly native peasant farmers), who integrated it into their cropping systems as a complement to their staple crops (rice, in particular) and cash crops (coffee and vanilla). Currently, the marketability of cloves brings a regular income to households, ensuring them food security. The clove tree bears two products of high economic value, the clove, which is the dried flower bud, and the essential oil, derived from distillation of the leaves, of which Madagascar is the world's number one exporter. Products from the clove tree, along with vanilla, account for the largest (second largest in some years) proportion of Madagascar's agricultural exports. Cloves are exported primarily to Indonesia to be used in the production of the local cigarettes known as kretek. There is a small demand from northern countries for exports of the clove spice. Clove essential oil is produced in a plethora of redimentary stills located throughout the clove growing zone. The quality of the essential oil depends on the content of eugenol, a molecule of interest in a number of commercial sectors including the cosmetic industry, human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and the food industry. The clove tree in Madagascar seems to represent an example of successful adoption and integration of a new crop into existing production systems. However, the clove tree plantations are ageing and the conditions for their renewal are not fully established. Whilst the market for cloves is largely dependent on demand from Indonesia, the future looks promising for the world market in clove spices and eugenol-based products. Consequently, current practices and possible ways of adapting and developing the Malagasy clove sector in new directions need to be investigated and addressed in order to balance the future demands of the markets with the needs of the farmers in terms of resource management and valorization.

Mots-clés : syzygium aromaticum; clou de girofle; huile essentielle; système de culture; donnée de production; utilisation; exportation; histoire; madagascar; indonésie; zanzibar; singapour; filière

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