They live by agriculture (cotton, tobacco, nutmegs, &c.) and fishing.
In Malaya and eastward the forests are rich in arborescent figs, laurels, myrtles, nutmegs, oaks and bamboos.
The soil is fertile and produces rubber, cotton, sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco and nutmegs, all of which are exported; pimento (allspice) grows wild in the greatest profusion.
Tea, coffee, cinchona, sugar-cane, rice, nutmegs, cloves and pepper are cultivated.
Pepper, nutmegs and cloves were long the objects of the most important branch of Dutch commerce; and gutta-percha, camphor, dammar, benzoin and other forest products have a place among the exports.
The vegetation of the small and narrow islands, all encompassed by the sea, is very luxuriant, and the products, principally nutmegs, mace, and other spices, include also rice and sago.
The principal exports from all the regencies alike are black and white pepper, bamboo (rotan), gums, caoutchouc, copra, nutmegs, mace and gambir.
To prepare the nutmegs for use, the seed enclosing the kernel is dried at a gentle heat in a drying-house over a smouldering fire for about two months, the seeds being turned every second or third day.
When thoroughly dried the shells are broken with a wooden mallet or flat board and the nutmegs picked out and sorted, the smaller and inferior ones being reserved for the expression of the fixed oil which they contain, and which forms the so-called oil of mace.
The dried nutmegs are then rubbed over with dry sifted lime.
The process of liming, which originated at the time when the Dutch held a monopoly of the trade, was with the view of preventing the germination of the seeds, which were formerly immersed for three months in milk of lime for this purpose, and a preference is still manifested in some countries for nutmegs so prepared.
Penang nutmegs are never limed.
"Oil of mace," or nutmeg butter, is a solid fatty substance of a reddish-brown colour, obtained by grinding the refuse nutmegs to a fine powder, enclosing it in bags and steaming it over large cauldrons for five or six hours, and then compressing it while still warm between powerful wedges, the brownish fluid which flows out being afterwards allowed to solidify.
Nutmegs yield about one-fourth of their weight of this substance.
The latter portion, about Io% of the weight of the nutmegs, consists chiefly of myristin, which is a compound of myristic acid, C 14 H 28 0 2, with glycerin.
Mace contains a similar volatile oil, macene, boiling at 160° C., which is said by Cloi z to differ from that of nutmegs in yielding a solid compound when treated with hydrochloric acid gas.
Gutta-percha (getah percha in the vernacular), camphor, cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, gambir and betel, or areca-nuts, are all produced in the island; most of the tropical fruits flourish, including the much-admired but, to the uninitiated, most evil-smelling durian, a large fruit with an exceedingly strong outer covering composed of stout pyramidal spikes, which grows upon the branches of a tall tree and occasionally in falling inflicts considerable injuries upon passers-by.
The principal articles of commerce in the Banda group are nutmegs and mace.
The production amounts annually to nearly 1,500,000 lb of nutmegs, and 350,000 lb of mace.
The nutmegs are grown, in accordance with natural conditions, under the shade of other trees, usually the canari.
Spices (cloves, cinnamon, nutmegs) were the chief articles of trade in the 18th century, and these with cotton, coffee, tobacco, sugar, maize and rice were the main crops grown until about 1850.