Grenada celebrates rare, massive nutmeg production

Grenada, the so-called spice island, is struggling to pay farmers after a dramatic jump in nutmeg production rarely seen since a devastating 2004 hurricane, officials said Thursday—as Linda Straker reports for Forbes.

Farmers produced nearly 447,000 pounds (203,000 kilograms) of nutmeg in March, the peak month for production, which is a nearly 500 percent increase in the amount anticipated, said Marlon Clyne, general manager for the privately run Grenada Cooperative Nutmeg Association.

“We were not prepared for that explosion,” he said. “It would be one of the biggest production months since Hurricane Ivan.”

Ivan ripped through the Caribbean island in 2004, killing 39 people and causing massive destruction to crops and homes.

The association says it does not have the remaining $140,000 immediately available that it owes for the product it is receiving.

It anticipated 87,000 pounds (39,400 kilograms) for the harvest in March. Production grew so sharply in part because the association increased the price per pound from 93 cents to $1.50 in December, and because the government launched a new stimulus program to cultivate abandoned fields, Clyne said. He also credited unseasonal rains.

“We are having good quality of great numbers,” he said. “There is a shortage in the world market, so it is a step in the right direction.”

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas said the government has appointed a committee to investigate the association’s late payments to farmers and to find solutions.

“Given the strategic nature of this commodity in the country’s economy, its employment potential and the number of families touched by it, we feel compelled to look into the situation,” he said.

Farmers have been forced to hire at least 40 additional seasonal workers and expect production levels to remain strong as the rainy season approaches.

Although the sharp increase in production has surprised many, it is nowhere near pre-Ivan levels, which hovered around 4 million pounds (2 million kilograms) of nutmeg a year.

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