Country Profiles
....You are here: >Home >Market information > Tropical commodities and their markets > Commodities C1




Cinnamomum camphora

Camphor is a white, waxy substance, which is extracted from the camphor laurel, by passing steam through the pulverised wood of the tree, which is usually at least 50 years old before it is harvested.

The camphor is then purified by sublimation.  An essential oil, camphor oil, is derived from camphor.  The tree is common in China but natural camphor is also produced in Taiwan (the main exporter) and Japan.  Camphor is now also made synthetically from α-pinine, a component of turptine.

Camphor has many uses.  Medicinally it is used to treat mild burns (when it has an analgesic and cooling effect) and in skin rubs (where it has an analgesic and cooling effect) and in skin rubs (where it has a warning effect).  It is also as an insect repellent, especially for moths, and as a plasticiser in the production of cellulose nitrate.  Locally it is used as a component of incense.


Camphor oil, Chinese cif Europe per kilo:

1991 - £1.22 sterling, 1992 – US$2.70, 1993 – US$2.10, 1994 – US$1.60, 1995 – US$1.65.

In early 1995 in Europe, BP grade synthetic camphor was trading at £2.5 sterling per kilo and natural BP grade camphor was trading at £4.87 sterling a kilo.


Cananga odoratum macrophylla

(See Ylang-ylang oil)

Cananga oil is distilled from the flowers of a tree, which is closely related to the tree from which ylang-ylang oil is derived, but the tree is taller and grows in different regions.

The oil is produced in the same way as ylang-ylang oil but its perfumed is said to be less delicate.  It is, therefore, considered an inferior product and is used for cheaper perfumes.


Java, US$ per kilo. Cif Europe:

1992 – 19.5, 1993 – 23, 1994 – 23, 1995 – 59.


Euphorbia antisyphilitica

Candelilla wax is found in the form of whitish scales that cover a reed- like plant, which grows wild in Texas and Mexico.  It is exported exclusively by Mexico.

The plant, which grows up to 3 feet high, is immersed in boiling water containing a little sulphuric acid to remove the wax.  The wax floats to the surface where it is skimmed off and strained.  It is then cooked slightly to remove excess moisture and cast into irregular lumps.  To refine the product it is melted, passed through filter presses and bleached.

Candelilla wax is hard, brittle and aromatic.  It is similar in many ways to carnauba wax but is considered inferior in that it does not emulsify or saponify (make soap in the presence of an alkali) as readily.  In addition, it has a lower melting point and it takes longer (several days) to reach maximum hardness after melting.  Some sources are also a little sticky.  It is, therefore, often used as an extender in many uses for the more expensive carnauba wax.  It does not blend well with ouricuri wax.

Candelilla wax is used in high quality furniture polishes but also for dressing leather, carbon paper and varnishes.

Its quality can be defined by its melting point, which is between 124 and 156 degrees F for standard wax but between 158 and 162 degrees F for the refined product.  Individually buyers specify the range of physical and chemical product, these might include specific gravity, acid number, saponification number, iodine number and the refractive index.  In addition, they might specific maximum ash and moisture content as well as colour and odour characteristics.  The product should be guaranteed to be original virgin product and contain no other added substance.

The market for candelills wax is buyoyant during periods when carnauba wax is in short supply.


Mexican fob, US per tonne:

1991 – 2600, 1992 – 2205, 1993 – 2600, 1994 – 2800, 1995 – 3400.


Elettaria cardamomum

Cardamon is a spice derived from the seeds of a perennial plant.  World trade in cardamon is about 10,000 tonnes.  India is the largest producer with about 7000 tonnes of production, followed by Guatemala (the largest exporter) with a production of about 5000 tonnes.  Other important producers are Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea.

Cropping starts 4 years after planting and the plants are dung up and replanted every 15 years or so.  The plants almost grow wild, needing very little attention.  These seeds are contained in small pods, which must be picked before they are fully ripe (mainly to avoid spillage from split pods).  The pods are then washed and dried either in the sun (for a lower-grade product) or in kilns.  White seeds may have been chemically bleaches to ensure a uniform appearance.

The seeds are generally sold in their pod but they can be sold separately.  They are also marketed in spice combinations such as garam masala.  They are used in curries and pickles and also in toilertries.

Mixed with coffee, cardamon is used to make a popular drink called gahwa in many Arab countries (especially Saudi Arabia).  For that reason these countries represent the largest export market for the spice.  Guatemala is having difficulty reconciling its huge cardamon sales to Arab countries with its close political and military links with Israel.

Scandinavian countries are the next most importers. It is used there in many types of breads and pasteries.

Quality is decided largely on density (grams per litre).


Guatemalan seeds US$ per kg cif Europe:

1991 – 3.50, 1992 – 3.75, 1993 – 3.90, 1994 – 8.00, 1995 – 00

CARNAUBA WAX (Also known as ceara wax)

Copernicia cerifera

Carnauba wax covers the fan-shaped leaves of a South American palm tree called the ‘tree of life’, which grows up to 13 metres in height.  The wax is extracted from trees, which grow in the dry regions of the northeast states of Brazil and can flourish for 200 years.  There has been a long history of cultivation of the tree, including the fencing and protection of natural groves and the establishment of plantations in the same region.

Although the same species of tree grows in other areas of South America and in tropical Africa and Sri Lank, it does not produce the wax in those areas.  Indeed, when rainfall levels are high in its native Brazil, wax production is very small.  The tree only produces the wax to protect its leaves from evaporation.  Total production is in excess of 20,000 tonnes per year, of which about half is exported to the USA.

The wax is obtained from the young leaves of the plant, which are gathered in the dry season and placed in the sun until the wax on the surface of the leaves dries to a fine dust, which is removed by threshing.  Ti is then melted and strained.  After cooling, the wax is broken up into blocks, which may be yellow to dark grey in colour.  Alternatively, the wax can be recovered mechanically using a machine called the Guarany-ciclone leaf chopper.  Owners of such a machine often rent it out to large producers in return for a share of the wax.  The harvesting of the leaves can begin at about 8 to 10 years after planting.

The colour of the wax is an indicator of the quality of the product, which, in turn, is dependent on the age of the leaves and the care with which the wax has been produced.

Number 1 ‘first’ grade is yellow, Number 2 ‘Medium’ grade is between yellow and grey, and Number 3 ‘sandy’ grade is dark grey and has a rough texture.  Crude carnauba is powder.  The refined grades of the wax should contain no more than 1.5 per cent moisture and have a melting point of between 82.5 and 86 degrees C.

Individual buyers require their own physical and chemical specifications of the refined product, which may include limits on such criteria as flash point, specific gravity, saponification number (the ease with which it forms a soap with an alkali), iodine number and refractive index.

The wax is the hardest and has the highest melting point of any natural wax.  It is water resistant and can hold a high polish.  Carnauba wax emulsifies as a clear liquid, which makes it ideal for quality floor and furniture polishes, which generally have a base of paraffin or beeswax.  It is also used in the ‘lost wax’ metal-casting process and in lipstick and varnishes.

The high prices that have been reached for the wax have encouraged the use of synthetic and other natural substitutes, but carnauba wax is still preferred.


Prime yellow Brazilian fob, US$ per tonne:

1991 – 4850, 1992 – 5625, 1993 – 3310, 1994 – 2425, 1995 – 8270. (1995 fatty grey – 4410).

CASCARA SAGRADA (Also known as sacred bark)

Rhamnus purshiana

This drug is made from the bark of a species of buckthorn tree, which is cultivated for the purpose in Kenya and the USA.

The active ingredient, which is prepared in liquid and solid form, is used in tiny amounts to augement other flavourings such as vanilla and caramel in ice –creams and baked goods.  In large doses it is used medically as a laxative

The bark must be dried for at least a year before use.


Cif Europe, £. Sterling per kilo.

1992 – 1.97, 1993 – 1.95, 1994 – 2.32, 1995 – 2,45.


Genus Euphorbiaceae

The dried bark of the cascarilla tree, grown in Cuba, the Bahamas and Haiti, is added locally to smoking tobacco for flavouring and is used for spicing drinks.  The light yellow oil obtained by steam distillation of the bark is used to flavour some drinks (root beer) and cakes, particularly in the United States.

The bark is marketed as short, thin, brittle rolls.


Anacardium occidentale

(See cashew nuts)

This is the bitter fruit of the cashew nut tree.  Cashew nut tress start fruiting three years after planting, but maximum yields are produced after ten years.  It is eaten locally but often made into a jam or drinks.  It is not considered likely that it will become popular in Northern countries.  There is very little international trade in cashew apples.


Anacardium occidentale


1992 Main producers (tonnes)

India                                                                 150,000

Brazil                                                                96,757

Tanzania                                                           40,150

Mozambique                                                    40,000

Indonesia                                                          30,533

Guinea Bissau                                                   30,000

Nigeria                                                              25,000

Kenya                                                              15,000

Malaysia                                                           12,000

Thailand                                                           11,850

World Total                                                      486,670

Source: FAO estimates


The main market for cashews is in whole kernels.  Large nuts fetch a higher price than small nuts.  The commercial grading of whole kernels is based on the number of nuts per Ib weight.  The accepted range is as follows:

Less than 210 to the Ib

Less than 240 to the Ib

Less than 320 to the Ib

Less than 450 to the Ib

320s are usually between 5 and 10 per cent more expensive than 450s.

Broken nuts are cheaper than whole kernels and are given the following names: ‘splits’ are nuts that have split along their natural transverse axis; ‘butts’ are nearly whole nuts.  In addition, there are ‘large pieces’ and ‘baby bits’.

Splits are about 80 per cent of the value of whole kernels and large pieces are about 60 per cent.


The USA is the world’s largest importer of cashews, followed by Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada.  Large quantities are also consumed in producing countries.


Cashews are eaten as cocktail and as snacks.  Split and broken nuts are used in confectionery and baking.  In some producing countries the cashew ‘apple’, which accompanies the nut on the tree, is made into a non-alcoholic drink (feni).

Production method

Nearly all cashews are harvested from wild trees or from trees grown by smallholders.  The raw nut is heated in cashew nut shell liquid (extracted from previously harvested nuts) to extract more liquid from the new nuts.  The shell is then removed mechanically, or laboriously by hand, depending on local economic conditions.  The inner shell or ‘testa’ is then removed and the nuts are graded and packed.

The nuts can be successfully stored for more than a year.  In Brazil the cashew apple, which normally rots 24 hours after picking, is made into edible flour in some processing plants.  The cashew nut tree is relatively easy to grow but takes 3-4 years before bearing nuts and a further 3-4 years before reaching maturity.

The nuts need to be free of dirt and girt and must therefore be shelled, roasted and graded in clean conditions.  Too much heating can result in scorching of the nuts, which can reduce their commercial value somewhat.

Particularly important is the control of aflatoxin (fungus infestation) in the nut.  EC legislation puts a statutory limit of 4µ per kilo for nuts imported for further processing before human consumption.

Cashews should be vacuum packed for export in tins or cartons weighing between 10 and 20 kilos.  Cashew nut shell liquid, which is used as cooking oil as well as in the processing of cashews, is normally transported in steel drums.

Main market features

Considering the large amount of hard, dirty work involved in cashew production, the cashew nut is a relatively cheap product.  Changes in the cost of labour, lack of pest control in Africa, reductions in incentive schemes in Brazil and lack of banking credit for farmers, especially in India, could have the effect of limiting future production.  The nut faces competition from corn chips, potato crisps, the peanut, and now the macadamia nut.

There is a lively local market in most producing countries, but nuts for the major export markets need to be processed in clean, organised conditions.  This means that fairly large processing plants, often employing hundreds of workers, are the major suppliers to the export trade.  These plants make contract with the local agents of large, multinational traders who handle both nuts and cashew shell nut liquid.


320s US$ per Ib cif UK:

1991 – 2.72, 1992 – 2.68, 1993 – 2.45, 1994 – 2.40, 1995 – 1.96.

CASSAVA (Also known as manioc, tapioca, yucca

Sweet cassava – Manihot dulcis, white cassava – Manihot utilissima

There are two main varities of cassava – the sweeter yellow varieties and the white varieties.  It is a staple diet for some indigenous peoples in parts of Central and South America, where it is a native plant, and in parts of Africa and Asia, where it was introduced. It is grown in damp and dry, tropical and subtropical regions but grows better in humid, tropical climates.  It is eaten as a vegetable or an ingredient in stews and soups all over the tropics, but it is also often grown as a reserve ‘famine crop’ in case other staples fail.  It is otherwise fed to animals.  It is not very nutritious.

Industrially, it is used to make sodium glutamate, glucose and starch.

The tubers begin to grow about two months after planting and need to be harvested in less than one year, as after that time they become woody and the starch content starts to decrease.  White varieties develop a toxic level of cyanide and have to be specially prepared (usually employing some form of fermentation) before eating.  The tubers are usually dug up with a spade as mechanical digging reduces the yield and damages the crop.

1992 Main cassava producers (thousands of tonnes)

Brazil                                                                22,652

Thailand                                                           21,130

Nigeria                                                             20,000

Zaire                                                                18,300

Indonesia                                                          16,308

India                                                                   5,200

Ghana                                                                4,000

China                                                                 3,780

Paraguay                                                           3,300

World                                                              152,218

Source: FAO estimates

Fresh cassava is exported by several other countries, including Costa Rica, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Uganda and Caribbean countries.  It is conventionally traded in 5 kg to 20 kg cartons.

To obtain the starch, the tubers are crushed, washed and filtered.  Topioca is the starchy product derived from cassava, made by washing and filtering the crushed tubers.  The starch passes through the filter and is held in suspension in the water until it is settled out in tanks as a kind of cake.  The damp flour is then put in a heated, rotating pan, which rolls it into small balls.

Health regulations for imported topioca in most developed countries require standards of cleanliness that are too high for producers in developing countries to meet.  This means that the product has to be recleaned in the consuming country before it can be sold for human consumption.

In 1995 cassava was retailing in London at £0.45 sterling per Ib. this suggests that the cif Europe price at the time was about US$0.75 per kilo.

Unrecleaned tapioca was trading in 1995 at about US$650 per tonne cif Europe.


Especially cinnamomum cassia and cinnamomum burmanni

The bark of the cassia laurel and other species related to cinnamon are used widely (especially in the USA which takes almost half the world’s exports) as an alternative to true cinnamon.

Indonesia is the main exporter with about two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 tonnes of world trade.  China is also an important producer.  Vietnam, Taiwan and India are minor producers.  The cassia trade recognises two main varieties.  Cassia vera (from C. burmannii), produced in Indonesia , is supplied in the form of regular sized ‘quills’ of dried rolled bark similar to the form in which most cinnamon is supplied.  Cassia lignea) is supplied by the Chinese in the form of longer, thicker strips of bark with a more irregular shape.  Broken pieces of bark are marketed at lower prices.

Cassia has a stronger but less delicate flavour than cinnamon and is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon.  It can be used whole (dried curls of bark) or in a ground form as flavouring in breads, cakes, and biscuits savoury dishes and, especially in the US, in soft drinks.  An essential oil which can be extracted from the bark (mainly cassia lignea), twigs and leaves of the plant which is used in the food processing industry and in perfumery.

Cassia bark is stripped from the smaller branched and dried.  In Indonesia cassia is largely grown by smallholders and sold to village dealers for onward sale to exporters.  There have been attempts to require state licences for exporters as members of the Cassia Exporters Association, and to set minimum prices and quotas.  Such efforts have been successful, however.

International trade in cassia oil is estimated at about 125 tonnes, of which China is the main producer and the USA the main consumer (about 80 per cent of the total).


Chinese whole cassia lignea, cif Europe. US$ per tonne:

1991 – 2500, 1992 – 2500, 1993 – 2500, 1994 – 2500, 1995 – 1900.


Ricinus communis


1992 main producers of castor seed (thousands of tonnes of oil content in seeds)

India                                                                 675

China                                                               290

Brazil                                                                103

Paraguay                                                            32

Former USSR                                                    30

Thailand                                                             23

Pakistan                                                             18

Ethiopia                                                              14

World                                                              1240

Source: FAO estimates


Trade occurs in seeds (sometimes referred to inaccurately as beans crude castor oil and modified oil.

The first crushing of the seeds, ‘firsts’, gives high-quality oil for immediate use known as cold press oil.  This oil can be used in medicine but is mainly used in lubricants and cosmetics.

Hot press oil, ‘seconds’, is produced on the second crushing or solvent extraction of the seeds.  This product cannot be used for human consumption unless it is chemically modified.  Indeed, there are several types of modified oil, which are tailor-made for the oil’s various industrial uses.


India China, the former USSR and Brazil, four of the most important castor oil producers, are also very large consumers.  Otherwise, Europe, USA and Japan are the largest consumers, in that order.


Castor seeds are poisonous.  However, the oil, when crushed from the seed, is not poisonous and can be consumed, specifically for use as a laxative.  Oil extracted with the use of solvents contains some of the poisonous alkaloids contained in the seed as an ingredient in hydraulic fluids, plasticisers, adhesives, wetting and dyeing agents, soaps, greases, insecticides and fungicides, flavourings, perfumes, fabric softeners and even jet engine lubricants.

The residue left over from the seed, after oil extraction, cannot be used to feed livestock but is used as fertiliser.

Production methods

Castor seed is grown commercially on plantations but also harvested from wild plants.  The seed must be hulled after harvesting.  This can be done laboriously by hand or, more commonly, by machine.  Small-scale hand-operated dehullers are available.

The seeds contain about 50 percent oil by weight.  To extract the oil they must be crushed and pressed with hydraulic or continuous screw pressing at high or low temperature.  High temperature hydraulic pressing yields 80 percent of available oil.  Further solvent extraction can release much of the remaining oil.

Modification of the oil is achieved by a variety of chemical processes including oxidation, hydrogenation and thermal treatments to produce products for specific applications.  This work is largely undertaken in importing countries.

The castor plant is an annual in the form of a shrub and there are many verities for farmers to choose from.  It will grow in poor soil but is attacked by a wide range of insects.  Storage of the seed in sunlight reduces the oil content.

Main market features

About half the world’s castor seeds are produced in the state of Gujarat in western India.  Castor oil producers in the state are making very large investments to increase production for export (export figures are said to be rising to 185,000 tonnes by the end of 1995) and the growing domestic market.  Some of this investment has come from a joint venture with Brazil, which has become a net importer of the oil.  China is also consuming more oil, resulting in lower Chinese exports.

Consumption of castor oil has fallen drastically in the former Soviet Union owing to the political and economic changes that have occurred there.

Traders are sensitive to price movements of castor oil on the Bombay futures market, which can be manipulated by rumours and speculation.

Erratic output has led to wide fluctuation of prices over recent years.  A hybrid variety of castor developed by the processing company Braswey for trials in Brazil is said to be extremely productive (800 kg/ha) and may reduce the price of castor oil.


Any origin, ex tank Rotterdam, US$ per tonne:

1991 – 820, 1992 – 820, 1993 – 800, 1994 – 900, 1995 – 820.


Calathea lutea

Cauassu is a tall perennial herb, which grows in lowland area of Central and South American and in the Caribbean.  The wax is exuded by the plant to cover the leaves.  It is said to be almost as useful as carnauba wax in floor and furniture polishes, but it contains resins, which necessitate further processing before it can be used in some higher-specification applications.

Plantation production in the area is still on trial basis.  The leaves of the plant can be harvested after one year.  The wax is removed by the mechanical beating of the dried leaves.  The resulted powdered was is then melted in hot water before it is skimmed off and solidified.

CHAYOTE (also known as chow chow, vegetable pear)

Sechium edule

This bland-tasting vegetable is a member of the squash family outside producing countries it is almost exclusively eaten by Chinese and West Indian ethnic communities.  It is exported by Brazil, Costa Rica and France.

In early 1995 the wholesale price for Costa Rican chayote in the London market was £7 sterling for a 10kg carton.


Annona cherimola

The cherimoya is considered to be one of the most delicious exotic fruit and, for that reason, it has established a market in developed countries.  France and the UK are the main European markets and each imports a few hundred tonnes a year.  It is exported from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Kenya, Lebanon, Spain, Thailand and USA.

Unfortunately the fruit is very perishable and are adversely affected by cool conditions.  This makes transport to markets very difficult unless a high degree of production and packing control is used and transport is made by air.

They are usually packed in 4 to 5kg cartons containing 12, 16,19 or 20 fruit.

CHICK-PEA (also known as gram, garbanzo)

Cicer arietinum

The chickpea is the world’s third most important legume crop.  It grows on an annual, which reaches about 60 cm in height.  The pods of the plant contain only one or two peas.  They are a particularly important food in India.

1992 main producers of chick-peas (thousands of tonnes)

India                                                                 4500

Turkey                                                             810

Pakistan                                                           496

Mexico                                                             195

Myanmar                                                          128

Australia                                                           120

Ethiopia                                                            120

Iran                                                                  102

Syria                                                                  74

Spain                                                                  33

World                                                              7000

Source:FAO estimates

Chickpeas are often grown as a mixed crop with cereals.  The crop takes between 90 and 180 days to reach maturity, depending on the climate.  The peas are traditionally harvested by hand and threshed by bullocks trampling on them.  In more developed regions these processes are carried out mechanically.  They should be dried to a moisture level of between 8 and 15 per cent for storage.  The peas can be ground into flour or can be eaten (especially in the Indian subcontinent) as the thick soup, dhal.  They are the main ingredients of hummus, the Middle Eastern dish.

Prices Turkish, cif UK, US$ per tonne:

1991 – 360, 1992 – 380, 1993 – 420, 1994 – 420, 1995 – 715.


Achras zapota

Chicle became an important crop during the first part of the twentieth century as the gum used to make chewing gum.  One of America’s leading chewing gum brands takes its name from the gum.

Chicle is the sap of the 10 metre high sapodilla tree and is collected mainly from tress that grow in the Yacatan province of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.  It can be collected by making cuts in the bark of the tree.  The gum oozes out in form of a white liquid with the viscosity of honey and is collected in a cup at the foot of the tree.  This liquid coagulates into a pinkish, rubber-like gum, which becomes quite soft in moderate temperatures.

Unfortunately, demand for chicle fell as fast as it had risen with the introduction of synthetic gums in the 1940s.  This trend may have been reversed in recent years, however.  There seems to be a growing demand for ‘natural’ chewing gum, especially in the United States, with more people being prepared to pay a little extra for chewing gum made with chicle.

Chicle has some other uses, notably for waterproofing and insulation.

CHILLIES (also known as paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper)

Genus Capsicum


There are many different verities of caspsiums, of which chillies are a sub-class.  Some members of the caspsicum genus, including sweet peppers and paprika (which is a variety of chilli representing only about 5 per cent of total chilli production) are grown mainly in temperate climates.  There are well over a million tons of dried chillies produced a year, of which more than 95 per cent are consumed in the country where they are grown.  India alone produces about half a million tonnes.  China and Pakistan are both large producers and export a greater proportion of their production than India.  Otherwise, most tropical countries produce chillies.  Mexico is a major supplier to the US market but the US produces chillies as well, notably a variety used to produce Tabasco sauce.  Some of the hottest chillies are grown in Central and Southern Africa.


Chillies are mainly traded in dries or powder (ground) form.  Developed countries usually specify minimum standards.  The British Standards Institution specifies that dried chillies, whole or ground, should contain not more than 11 per cent moisture, 10 per cent total ash and 1.6 per cent maximum of total ash insoluble in hydrochloric acid.

Chillies vary greatly in pungency (hotness), which is commonly measured in Scoville units.  Mild paprika might measure 30,000 Scoville units, while a really pungent African chilli might measure 1 million on this scale.

Whole dried chillies are usually bought free of caps and tems.  Buyers look for redness in the skins of chillies or paprika to be used as a colouring agent.

Developed countries apply tight phytosanitary regulations, especially on bacterial contamination on processed spices, and ban certain fumigants.


Whole chillies are used as a food but their main use, especially in developed countries, is a spice or flavouring in cooking or in pickles.  Ground chillies are the most common form of the product when used as a spice, which can be variously described as chilli powder, paprika, red pepper, cayenne pepper or, erroneously, as pimento.  Chillies are used as a condiment in many countries but their main use is to flavour cooked meats, corn chips, sausages, etc, and as an essential ingredient in curry powders are certain sauces.

The red of the dried ripe chilli is used to colour the products to which it is added.  The essential oil, known as oleoresin, is usually extracted from the most pungent varsities and used to flavour food products on an industrial scale.

Very small quantities of chillies are used in pharmaceutical products.


The great bulk of chillies are used by the people who grow them – namely smallholders in South-East Asia.

Total world trade in chillies and paprika is about 40,000 tonnes each year.  Paprika is almost exclusively grown in Spain and Hungary and is used mainly in Northern countries, however, and so is not a tropical product.

The major chilli importers are Asian countries.  Malaysia, Korea and Japan are particularly large buyers.

The popularity of Mexican food in the USA has increased US demand and imports, especially from Mexico.  Europe is also an important market for exporters.

Very hot chillies grown in Africa, Papua New Guinea and South and Central America have their own niche market.

Production method

Most chillies are grown in gardens or small plots and consumed by the people who grow them.  They are usually grown in rotation with other crops.  Although they can be grown as perennials, more pungent fruit are said to be produced when the plants are grown as an agricultural crop.

Importers in developed countries prefer mechanically dried rather than sundries chillies, as they are less to be damaged by rodents and insects or contaminated with earth, mould or other foreign material.  For the same reason, buyers tend to reject chillies that have been stores too long in their country of origin.

To produce chilli powder, the fruit is dried, washed thoroughly in very clean water, dried again and ground to a powder, which will pass through a 40-mesh sieve.  Less pungent powder is produced by removing the seeds before grinding.  A 10 per cent maximum moisture content is considered necessary by most buyers.

Main market features

The most important feature of the chilli market is the massive production and consumption in Eastern countries.  World trade is only a small fraction of this quantity.

Most international trade is in dried chillies.

The relatively recent increase in popularity of “Tex-Mex” food in the USA and Canada and of Eastern foods in Europe, especially the UK, has meant an increase in Northern consumption and imports of chillies.

The tight quality and phyosanitary regulations applied by developed countries to spice imports have meant that most grinding of dried chillies into powder has occurred in the importing countries.  However, there are some indications, notably in India, that producing countries are successfully marketing the ground product to consuming countries.  If producers are able to produce a high-specification product, they are able to increase its value considerably.

Some developed countries protect their grinding industries by imposing no duty on whole spices and a duty on the ground product.  Any prospective exporter of ground spices should examine this factor before investing in processing.

The spice trade is much less dominated than it once was by large, specialist trading companies based in consuming countries and doing everything from negotiating with individual producers, grinding spices in developed countries are now buying mainly from local grinders and the grinders are increasingly buying direct from source.

The few spice-trading companies that do exist tend to sell to grinders and trade in the more exotic products.  US buyers still tend to source their African chillies from European traders, for instance.

Some trading companies based developing countries but owned by Asians are becoming increasingly successful, particularly in supplying spices for the Asian minority population and Eastern restaurants in Weatern countries.


Malawi origin US$ per tonne, cir Europe:

1991 – 2750, 1992 – 3000, 1993 – 3700, 1994 – 3500, 1995 – 2750.


Cinnamomum verum

Cinnamon is a spice made from the dried, yellowish-brown inner bark of a bushy evergreen tree.

Sri Lanka supplies 80 percent of the world’s exports, which total about 10,000 tonnes.  Kenya, Madagascar and the Seychelles are other important suppliers.

Cinnamon is harvested from both cultivated trees and from the wild.  The bark is collected by coppicing the tree every two years, beginning about four to five years after planting.  The tree reaches its maximum yield after about ten years.  The outer bark from the branches (straight branches are preferred) is first removed.  The inner bark is then stripped, rolled into ‘quills’ and dried in the sun.  Thin bark produces the best quality spice.

Sri Lanka has a complicated grading system based on the thickness of the bark and the diameter of the quills.  ‘Rough unscrapped barl’ (exported especially from the Seychelles) and chips of bark are sold at lower prices.

Cinnamon is a sweet spice and has very wide range of uses as flavouring in curries, cakes, biscuits, breads, and in mulled wine and other drinks.  The Japanese use it to flavour tea and the Mexican use of cinnamon in hot chocolate represents a very large part of the market.  The spice is retailed as quills or dry, ground powder.  An essential oil made from the bark and leaves of the tree is used for flavouring some mass-produced food products and in perfumery.

Until 1977 Sri Lanka operated a state monopoly buying system but this scheme had to be abandoned owing to overproduction.


Madagascan, per tonne, cif Europe:

1991 - £580 sterling, 1992 - £700 sterling, 1993 - £760 sterling, 1994 – US$1150, 1995 – US$1300.


Cymbopogon winterianus and cymbopogon nardus

Citronella oil is one of the most important essential oils, derived from two related types of grass.  Its market has been eroded by chemicals synthesised from turpentine, which it is derived from coniferous trees.

There are two types of citronella oil.  Oil derived from cymbopogon winterianus is known as ‘Java type’ and that from cymbopogon nardus as ‘Ceylon’ type.  Both are used to make cheap, ‘lemony’ perfumes for such things as toilet soap, household cleaners and aerosols designed to mask unpleasant smells.  The Java-type oil is much richer in two chemical isolates – geraniol and citronellal.  Both these chemicals have a different use in the perfumery industry as part of more expensive and delicate perfumes, especially lily of the valley fragrances.

Natural citronella and its derivatives are preferred by the perfume industry to similar compounds synthesised from turpentine and, after many years of decline owing to substitution by these products, the citronella oil market has slowly begun to improve.  This may not last, however, if the price becomes too high.

The grasses from which the oil is produced can be grown in a wide variety of climates provided they are not subjected to frost.  The grass can be harvested a few months after planting and the oil obtained by simple steam distillation.

The main producers are china and Indonesia, who each produce about 40 per cent of the world’s supply.  The oil also produced in Brazil. Sri Lanka, Argentina, Guatemala, Jamaica, Vietnam. Thailand, Mexico, India, Honduras and South Africa.  Much of the oil is used domestically.  Toal annual world production is about 4000 tonnes.


Indonesian, cif Europe, US$ per kilo:

1992 – 3.80, 1993 – 4.90, 1994 – 8.00, 1995 – 13.5.


Eugenia caryophyllata


World production of cloves exceeds 60,000 tonnes per year, about a third of which is produced and consumed in Indonesia

1987 Main exporters (tonnes)

Madagascar                                                     8000

Tanzania (Zanzibar)                                          5200

Brazil                                                                3000

Sri Lanka                                                         1000

The Comoros                                                   600

Less important exporters are China, Grenada, Malaysia and Mozambique.


Cloves are classified to the country of origin, but appearance is important for the retail market.  Cloves are preferred if they have stout stems and large, unbroken heads.  Low-quality cloves are retailed in the ground form of the spice or processed for the production of clove oil.


Only 30 per cent of all cloves produced are exported.  In Indonesia, the world’s largest clove – producing and consuming country, cloves are used to make the Indonesian ‘kretek’, clove –flavouring cigarette.  In most other producing countries, the majority of production is exported.  The USA is the world’s largest importer and takes most of Brazil’s exports.  India is a very large consumer of cloves and sources most of its supply from Sri Lanka.


The largest use of cloves is in the Indonesian cigarette industry.  Most other uses are as a spice in the flavouring of cakes, meat dishes, sausages, pickles and dressings.  Industrial food manufacturers are often able to use the cheaper, ground clove stems as a substitute for the clove bud.

Essential oils derived from the clove bud and other parts of the plant, such as the leaves, are also used for flavouring, but as they have local anaesthetic properties they are employed to relieve toothache.  They are also used in the production of fragrances and as an insect repellent.

Production method

Cloves are the dried, unopened flower buds of the 12-metre tall clove tree.  They appear in clusters on the tree and become dark red at the time they are picked, which is done by hand.  They are dried in the sun or by exposure to wood smoke.  The clove tree is grown from seed and raised in a nursery plantation for one year.  It becomes ready for harvesting 7 years after planting and reaches full production after 20 years.  The tree lives for between 60 and 100 years.

The essential oil is extracted by repeated distillation with water.

Main market features

Indonesia was once the largest importer of cloves, importing almost 8000 tonnes in 1982.  Indonesia’s more recent drive to self-sufficiency has reduced its importers to a fraction of that figure and caused the international price of cloves to fall dramatically.  Cloves were once among the most highly prized spices on the international market, but the price has fallen sharply over recent years.  In the early 1980s, the price of cloves was over £5000sterling per tonne compared to the price in 1995 of only one-tenth of that value.  It is quite astonishing that growers receive such a small reward for producing a tonne of cloves containing between 10 and 20 million individual picked buds.


From Madagascar, US$ per tonne, cif Europe:

1991 – 2000, 1992 – 1475, 1993 – 850, 1994 – 850, 1995 – 750.

>Home >Market information > Tropical commodities and their markets > Commodities C1


About Foodnet | About IITA | About ASARECA | Projects Funded Information_Exchange | Agro Enterprises | Postharvest | Links | Contact

Foodnet is an ASARECA research & development network funded by USAID
© 2002 FOODNET-Uganda. All rights reserved. E-mail:
Web Design by Charles Lwanga M, Webmaster for IITA-ESARC


Market info Overview







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































   Home | contact | Market News