Millions of people in America will celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States on Thursday, and it’s a good bet that a number of dinners will feature a pumpkin spice dessert, side dish, or drink.
The spice mix whose standard components include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger has become one of the more hotly anticipated — or, in some camps, dreaded — signals that the winter holiday season has arrived.
But did you know that USAID and partners stretching from Ohio to Indonesia to Maryland play a key role in ensuring that pumpkin spice makes it onto your holiday menu?
In 1984, USAID and the National Cooperative Business Association established CBI Global, a Westerville, Ohio-based company that today connects coffee and spice farmers around the globe to more than 160 companies in 40 countries. In Indonesia, PT AgriSpice Indonesia, a subsidiary of CBI Global, has partnered with USAID to help over 15,000 Indonesian farmers.
USAID and PT AgriSpice target farmers who need help to improve the techniques they use to grow high-value crops like vanilla and cinnamon. As a result, farmers have increased the quality and volume of their crops, connected to international markets, and substantially increased their profits.
Vanilla farmer Agustinus Daka, who leads a group of fellow farmers in his village in Indonesia’s Papua province, had hoped USAID would help his community move beyond subsistence farming. Within two years of participating in the project, he had doubled his income.
PT AgriSpice exports $150 million worth of spices annually and has a major share in North American and European Union markets for nutmeg, mace, vanilla, cloves, pepper, and cinnamon. Farmers are reaping financial rewards by producing higher quality products, and another 400 workers — 90 percent of them women — have steady incomes by working at the factory that processes the spices for export.
USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, in fact, sent off a two-ton shipment of vanilla from the Indonesian factory on its way to Maryland-based McCormick & Company during a visit to the factory earlier this month. That’s enough vanilla to make well over 375,000 pumpkin pies!
Along with CBI, McCormick has been a longtime partner in the project, investing alongside USAID to support the farmers and factory workers.
McCormick is one of PT AgriSpice’s major customers. Another fun fact: McCormick began selling pumpkin pie spice in 1934, long before anyone thought of #PumpkinSpice — or Twitter.
“We are delighted with this partnership that’s lasted nearly 40 years,” USAID Glick said during a tour of PR AgriSpice during her recent visit to several Asian nations. “What this industry does for Indonesia is not just economic development. The spice processing is not just creating jobs. It’s helping Indonesia and Indonesians continue along a very positive national development trajectory.”
Indonesia is a perfect example of this strategy. The country is the number one exporter of cloves to the United States and the number one global exporter of nutmeg.
Indonesia is also now the world’s second largest producer of vanilla, after Madagascar. Together, these two countries supply the majority of the world’s vanilla — a prized ingredient not only in Thanksgiving pies but also in food and beauty products ranging from ice cream to soaps.
Through this and other projects over four decades, USAID has helped more than 15,000 spice farmers in eastern Indonesia become more self-reliant as they grow their agribusinesses to delicious and aromatic heights.
About the Author
Angela Rucker is a writer and editor with USAID.