Grenada’s nutmeg trade is recovering after two devastating hurricanes in recent years.
Grenada used to produce around 2,000 tonnes of nutmeg a year with annual revenues of around $13 million but between 2002 and 2004, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Emily and Ivan, 555,000 nutmeg trees - more than 90 per cent - were destroyed.
By 2011, nutmeg production was twice as high, but recovery was still less than 15 per cent of pre-hurricane volumes.
Grenada’s average yield per hectare of nutmeg is significantly higher than the rest of the region, however, around 500,000 pounds of nutmeg are unharvested each year.
Technical improvements have also enabled farmers to overcome threats to the growth of the sector.
Although the crop is inherently “climate smart” in that it is relatively resistant to drought, it sequesters carbon, and protects soil and watersheds in upland areas, nutmeg is also considered to be the most vulnerable spice to extreme weather. The tree takes four to six years to produce fruit and more than 20 years to reach full production, and given its shallow roots, it can be easily uprooted by wind.
Farmers are learning to adapt to these vulnerabilities by creating windbreaks and shelter belts using trees such as bamboo, mango and citrus in the path of damaging winds, to reduce wind erosion. Intercropping with cocoa, banana, coconuts and root crops has also been an effective measure for soil and root protection.
An alternative propagation method called grafting, introduced in Grenada in 2016, aimed at increasing nutmeg productivity by converting hundreds of male trees into female fruit bearing ones also holds immense promise for the sector.