In Ranakolong village, Kota Komba district, East Manggarai, clove growers are in the middle of harvest season. Clove harvesting has traditionally been one of the busiest times throughout the year for farmers in East Manggarai, a significant producer of cloves on Flores Island, East Nusa Tenggara.
Clove harvest season usually falls between August and September. Several farmers have complained that this year’s extreme weather has resulted in yield declines.
A constant decline in clove prices has become the greatest concern for farmers across East Manggarai. From the middle of August to the beginning of September, cloves were priced in between Rp 95,000 [US$7.11] – Rp 100,000 per kilogram. Starting from the middle of September, the prime commodity is selling at around Rp 80,000 – Rp 85,000 per kg only.
With declining prices, harvest season no longer promises huge profits for clove growers in East Manggarai as it used to. High labor costs have made the situation even worse. During harvests, plantation owners must hire clove pickers with a daily salary of Rp 50,000 per person and provide them with meals and cigarettes.
Laborers in several areas don’t even accept job offers with a daily salary of less than Rp 75,000 per day per person as they are aware that few people are now available for clove harvesting. Many villagers, especially the young ones, in East Manggarai have chosen to work in big cities or even go abroad, where they can earn a lot more money.
This is why it is quite common to see many plantation owners aged above 60 years in East Manggarai still harvesting cloves by themselves.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of their harvest activities on Sept.11 to 13, farmers said they hoped local authorities could give them more support, including closely monitoring clove prices in local markets in East Manggarai. (ebf)