Ministry Urges Adding More Spice to Farming
Last modified: 2010-02-14 18:51:37
Solo. Variety is the spice of life, and the cultivation of a variety of spices may just be the way to save the environment and restore the country's image as the "Spice Islands," Minister of Agriculture Anton Apriantono said on Wednesday.
Besides being highly prized commodities, part of the original attraction of European colonizers to the archipelago, Anton said spice plants contributed to environmental diversity and human health.
"Spices have become an indispensable part of our daily needs," Anton told the annual meeting of the Indonesian Spice Board in Solo. "If we can grow and maintain Indonesian spices, I'm sure our environment and natural resources can be preserved."
Anton said the variety of spices available was tremendous, probably reaching into the thousands.
"But now we cultivate only some 150 varieties," he said. "Most of the other spices still grow wild in nature."
Despite the scarcity of backyards in which to grow plants, Anton said that should not be a disincentive.
He said many spices could easily be grown in small areas, such as pepper, cinnamon, ginger, clove, turmeric, candlenut, arecanut, gambier and vanilla.
Board chairman Adi Sasono told the meeting that his organization had encouraged commercial spice farmers to avoid using synthetic chemicals on their crops.
Most farmers, he said, had become smarter about choosing safe, healthy and environmentally friendly nutrients.
"We keep on encouraging farmers to produce high-quality and healthy spices," Adi said.
"Use of the ‘Back to Nature' label denoting the adoption of organic agricultural methods has been widely applied."
He said food safety, nutritional value and eco-labeling were all being pushed to promote the industry's standards.
Supported by plenty of sunshine, fertile soil and a culture that respected nature, Adi said he was convinced that spice cultivation and environmental preservation could be done in harmony.
There are millions of hectares still available for expanding the industry, he said, adding that the nation already had a lot of land under irrigation for rice and other crops, and spice cultivation could be combined with that.
"Spice cultivation can be in line with them since it does not require large spaces to grow spices," Adi said. "Moreover, spice cultivation does not require deforestation. It is indeed environment friendly."
Simeon TH Pally, the district chief for Alor in Flores, said spices could be cultivated monoculturally, meaning farmers could plant only one variety.
For example, vanilla could be grown side by side with coffee, bananas, coconut and other stem plants whose roots function as soil water resources.
Home owners, he said, could develop a "spice cultivation pattern in their yards by using spices as ‘side plants' and ‘living fences' to create a greener environment."
"As an agrarian country with a supportive environment, Indonesia has so many citizens who have the hearts of farmers," Pally said.
"In this way, they could help maintain our environment and preserve natural resources."
Keywords: Indonesia, organic, spice, farming, eco-labeling, nutritional value