The province of Maluku, historically known as the Spice Islands, will soon have a spice museum, the first of its kind in Indonesia.
Once established, it is expected to attract numerous visitors to smell, taste, and touch the spices on display.
According to Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu, the concept for the spice museum is based on Maluku`s historical attraction for ancient Indian, Chinese, Arab, and eventually European traders in search of spices.
The governor noted that the Portuguese had built their first fort in the area in 1511 on the island of Ternate, North Maluku, where they cornered the trade in cloves.
The Dutch, who arrived in 1599, posed the first serious threat to the Portuguese in controlling Maluku`s treasures.
When armed conflict broke out, it took a heavy toll on the island`s population.
The Dutch finally emerged victorious and enforced an iron-clad trade monopoly. Entire villages were razed to the ground and thousands of islanders died, particularly on the island of Banda.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the British briefly occupied Maluku; however, Dutch rule was soon restored in 1814. Years later, in 1863, the mandatory cultivation of spices was completely abolished across the province.
Governor Ralahalu noted that the spice museum was intended to reflect the golden age of the province`s spice industry, when nutmeg and cloves were the costliest commodities available in the global market during the 16th century.
"Unfortunately, the glory of Maluku as a spice-producing province has now disappeared, and the spice farmers live on in poverty," the governor continued.
He said the nutmeg and clove trees belonging to the farmers were too old, and their productivity declined every year. Something had to be done to revitalize the area.
"These problems drove us to build a spice museum to provide education and a starting point for research for the nation`s future generations," remarked Governor Ralahalu.
Plans for the initiative have already been conveyed to Coordinating Minister for People`s Welfare Agung Laksono.
Ambon Pattimura University and various technical departments will also be involved in the approval process.
Meanwhile, Minister Agung Laksono said in Ambon on Tuesday that he was in favour of the construction of a spice museum in Maluku.
"I welcome the idea of a spice museum in Maluku, which was once called the Spice Islands and was the only place where nutmeg, mace, cloves, and other valuable spices were grown," said Agung the previous day, on Monday evening, at the first International Conference on Spices in Ambon.
Speaking on the occasion, the minister suggested that the museum could be used as a laboratory of spices in Indonesia.
Agung pointed out that local and foreign students would find great educational value in such a museum, where they would have the opportunity to recognize and study the various spices grown in Indonesia.
"The spice museum should have multiple functions that meet world-class standards in support of marine and tourism development in Maluku," acknowledged the minister.
He gave the example of a cigarette factory that had constructed a "kretek" museum (displaying cigarettes containing cloves) with raw materials from Maluku.
"Therefore, building a world-class spice museum in Maluku is a reasonable goal, and I hope the governor and relevant technical departments will design it together," Agung explained.
He expressed hope that the presence of this museum would motivate the younger generation in Maluku to restore the golden age of spices to the province.
"The most important goal is for the presence of this museum to contribute greatly to the prosperity of the people, particularly the spice farmers in Maluku and beyond," he added.
Agung has urged the Ministry of Agriculture to increase the number of spice plantations across Indonesia.
"It is important to increase the number of spice plantations, but it is not necessary to do so under the auspices of thriving businesses such as cocoa and palm oil plantations," the minister continued.
Agung noted that a national movement should be initiated to encourage the public to cultivate various kinds of spices, similar to the process adopted by cocoa, tea, and palm oil plantations.
Agung has urged Agriculture Minister Suswono to enforce Law No.18/2004 on plantations by issuing a government regulation to strengthen the Indonesian Spices Council (DRI).
The DRI is an organisation that brings together various stakeholders, including farmers` associations that deal with pepper, cloves, tobacco, vanilla, shallots, and garlic.
The aim of the DRI is to increase the number of farmers growing spices and the number of related stakeholders in Indonesia.
According to Agung, spices continue to hold high economic value in world markets, but ironically, spice farmers in Indonesia have not prospered.
"Therefore, spice commodities should become the mainstay of these farmers to improve their welfare," the minister noted. (Antara)