SOURCE: EthnoPharm

June 27, 2005 14:12 ET

Now That You Have All Heard of Madagascar, It Is Time to Smell and Taste the Exotic Essence of This "Oasis on Earth"

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- June 27, 2005 -- Is it possible that the lemurs in Madagascar party it up during all-night raves? Even though the current box-office hit, "Madagascar," is an animated film, Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks, the creators of "Madagascar" have definitely helped to promote the "island oasis" of the real Madagascar. In addition to the movie phenomena, a priority of a project funded by the US-AID called Business And Market Expansion (BAMEX) is ramping up to help promote and increase the market presence of Madagascar spices, essential oils and handicrafts. Madagascar is the leading exporter of vanilla in the world and is an important producer of cloves, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, as well as endemic medical plants.

By promoting these products and creating market linkages and innovative partnerships between U.S. and Malagasy companies, the biodiversity of Madagascar may be protected and celebrated by others around the world. Additionally, Madagascar small farmers and businesses may be developed in a market-led, sustainable, and broad-based manner, giving environmentally friendly income opportunities to Malagasy producers.

"Madagascar is a botanical treasure and a naturalist's promised land," said Roger Rakotomalala, a Malagasy-American and president of Lemur International, Inc. based in San Francisco. "It's a little-known fact that Madagascar has been touching our everyday lives for a long time. It goes way back to Thomas Jefferson who had a fascination with French cuisine and introduced vanilla to the US back in the 18th century. Madagascar is one the leading producers of both vanilla and cinnamon which grows wild on the east and northwest coasts of the island." Rakotomalala imports Malagasy essential oils for the US market and Madagascar's pristine environment and ecological diversity make its essential oils distinctive and exceptional.

Prima Fleur Botanicals, a personal care product development company, based in San Rafael, California, uses essential oils from Madagascar in some of their formulas. "We import essential oils from 45 different countries at our company," said Ron Griffith co-owner (with his wife & founder Maryanne) of the company. "The quality and seductive aromas of the essential oils from Madagascar are in a class all by themselves and are unsurpassed by anything from other countries."

In the USAID funded strategy that will promote trade between Madagascar and the US, these essential oils and spices may become more accessible to American practitioners of aromatherapy and natural product companies. At present, some 80 percent of trade between Madagascar and the United States consists of textiles, thanks to opportunities created by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), signed into law during the Clinton administration. During the next few years one of the key program areas will be improving availability of other priority products such as essential oils, spices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, botanicals and handmade crafts and arts through expanding private/public sector alliances.

Helping Madagascar's economy to grow and develop is key to USAID assistance to the country. Helping more Malagasy people increase their incomes, their chances of finding work and their agricultural output while conserving the country's natural resources will result in a better life for all. At the heart of the program, it's about reducing poverty through substantial economic growth.

Kerry Hughes, M.Sc., Ethnobotanist and consultant with the BAMEX project, hopes to attract businesses that are interested in developing value-added products from Malagasy spices and essential oils. One of the key programs she is developing through the project will help to create direct "fair-deal" type relationships between companies manufacturing products in the non-traditional markets and small suppliers or communities in Madagascar. The non-traditional markets she hopes to reach include dietary supplements, functional foods, body care & cosmetics, sustainability markets and handicrafts. Kerry can be reached by email at

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