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The trend in ginger production worldwide, and, therefore, a commensurate consumption, in the last two decades or so, seems to outstrip a mere increase in world population. This may be due to perhaps apart from the popularity of Asian cuisines that use it relatively frequently - the emergence of a nutraceutical health culture and increasing embracing of a so-called alternative medicine in which ginger plays a significant role.. It is a trend which we should be taking advantage of, given, up to now, the supposed unrivalled quality of Jamaican ginger. Sadly, the Jamaican ginger industry, such as it might charitably be called, is in a very sorry state. Three reasons ( or excuses ) have been cited most often for this. 1. Diseases of the soil and pests of the plant 2. High labour cost, at least in relation to dried peeled ginger. 3. Foreign competition. And, perhaps arising from the above factors, damage to the reputation of Jamaican ginger as exemplified by shipments of dried ginger rejected because of fungal contamination. These factors may, with some justification, be claimed to be causes of the situation. But they are not the only ones and the decline of the ginger industry is a sad story of a reactive approach to a situation long in the making. Before the various factors are discussed in detail, a brief history of ginger in Jamaica. It is not an indigenous crop, the fame and reputation of ginger from Jamaica notwithstanding. Ginger is one of a botanical family originating in the Indo-Malaysian region. The plant was given the scientific name Zingiber officinale by William Roscoe in an 1807 publication. Zingiber probably comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “horn-shaped”; however, there are other accounts of derivation which differ somewhat. The plant is a perennial growing to about one meter. What is used commercially are rhizomes, or underground stems - technically not roots - which are reaped after about 10 months of growth, or when the foliage starts to fade off. Traditional propagation is by cutting short pieces of the rhizomes and replanting at a time when the season (hopefully) ensures adequate soil moisture. It was greatly prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who obtained supplies from Arab traders. It was introduced to England before the Norman conquest in 1066, and became the second most popular spice after black pepper. It almost disappeared from Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire but ginger came back into favour after the trips of Marco Polo to the Far East, becoming a much-coveted and very expensive spice. By the Elizabethan period the English literally gingered their beers and ales and Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the “invention” of the gingerbread man. In the Caribbean colonies fresh ginger was fermented in lime and rum. The Spanish brought it to Mexico (presumable through the person of Francisco de Mendoca), so-called New Spain, in the early 16th century, from India and to Jamaica, in about 1525. Portugal raised it in Brazil and Sierra Leone. The early American settlers obtained all their ginger from Jamaica; thus it was called Jamaica ginger and was probably introduced to the American Indians. Presently, cultivation is done in most tropical countries, with Indochina region, Japan, other East Asian countries, Australia, some African and Latin American countries, and Hawaii as major producers.
It is perhaps not overstating it to say that the ancient and medieval histories of the European, African and Asian countries were in large part driven by the spice trade (think, for instance, Christopher Columbus!) and that ginger had been a/the major player in this. After the 17th century, it seems that the use of dried ginger declined because of the trend in serving fresh rather than aged meat. It wasn't until the 1970s that there was a resurgence of interest in the use of fresh ginger, mainly caused by the aftermath of the Vietnamese War when a wave of immigrants from southeast Asia to the USA and from India, Pakistan and other countries of the region migrated to Europe and the UK, bringing with them the taste of fresh ginger. This trend was further increased by the interest of food and travel writers in international cuisine. Thus by 1996, according to Saveur food magazine, America consumed 38 million pounds of ginger per annum, mostly grown in Hawaii, Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and China. No mention was made of Jamaica The Spanish were said to have introduced ginger to Jamaica around 1525. In a “mere” 20 or so years, export was reported to be some 1.2 million kilograms cumulatively. Following its introduction to St. Ann, the Christiana area was found to be ideal for ginger growing and has remained the area associated with the crop. The English, after their defeat of the Spanish in 1655, continued the cultivation of the crop. In the first half of the 19th century, European immigrants in the Christiana area applied their agricultural skills to the growing of ginger of a quality that was the most prized on the London market. Ginger was also cultivated by the German immigrants who settled in the Seaford Town area of eastern Westmoreland. So successful was the cultivation, and with the reputation gained for superior culinary attributes, that Jamaica, in one account not so long ago, was listed as one of the major ginger producers in the world, the only two others mentioned being India and Sierra Leone – despite the fact that, by that time, Jamaica was far behind in terms of volume production By at least the late 19th century, America obtained almost all of its ginger from Jamaica, and hence the island was known as “the land of ginger”. A peak production of almost 2 million kilograms was reported for the year 1953, the figure dropped to about 0.4 million kg. in 1995 and since then has dropped precipitously, It is primarily a small farmer`s crop, varying in plot size from a few square yards to more than 10 acres, often as a companion crop (intercropping, but not in a modern agronomic sense, of which more later). Propagation is by cutting of the rhizomes into pieces of about 2 to 3 inches length, planted some 5 to 12 inches apart and, with favorable conditions, shoots appear in ten to fifteen days, or five to six weeks in dry weather. 1,400 to 1,800 pounds of material per acre may be used, resulting usually in yields of 6,000 to 12,000 pounds of raw ginger. Two types are said to be grown in Jamaica, The white/yellow ginger has a yellow –fleshed rhizome and is more highly regarded than the “blue” ginger (“flint”), with a bluish and more fibrous flesh. Soils of the main ginger- growing areas of Jamaica are mainly of the so-called terra rosa type of bauxitic soil. This is not a pre-requisite quality as other types which are rich, easily drained and friable are also suitable, likely more so. An environmental disadvantage of the cultivation of ginger in the main growing areas is due to the sloping nature of the lands. While it allows rapid drainage, desirable for healthy growth, erosion is also a problem.
Planting is between March and May, harvesting between December and March when stalks have withered and dried. For dried ginger, the rhizomes are peeled laboriously by hand, using a special narrow knife so that the process is done with as little loss of the flesh as possible, since much of the active ingredients reside in the flesh adjoining the skin. According to the bulletin, “ Ginger. A Short Economic History. Commodity Bulletin No. 4. D. Rodriguez. Agricultural Planning Unit, 1971”, the peeled hands are washed in lime water before being dried on barbecues or ginger mats, for five to eight days. Some of this dried ginger is ground for local culinary use, some, until a few years ago, extracted for oleoresin and the remainder, perhaps the major portion, exported for extraction. The cycle of production peaks and troughs began early in its history. Many factors were involved but a constant was the classic phenomenon, that in periods of small production, prices moved to high levels, causing over-cultivation, thus leading to low prices, to be followed by low cultivation and, inevitably, a renewal of the cycle. Thus, around 1952, a peak production of almost 2 million kg. led to a market collapse and the government made funds available to the JAS to purchase the unmarketed portion of the crop which was then sold abroad. A price recovery in 1954-56 led to a discontinuation of govt. assistance, but in 1957 assistance was again sought until its cessation in 1960, only to resume in 1965. To cut this part of the trade history short, the present position is that the Pimento Board is the designated purchaser of “surplus” dried ginger (and fresh ginger for drying) and which is having a hard time finding ready buyers abroad. In addition to the cycle of boom and bust, the years from the early pre-World War II years to the present have introduced factors which complicated the trade landscape of Jamaican ginger. The increase in the export of dried ginger from Sierra Leone, India and esp. Nigeria and their improvement in quality figured prominently in the earlier years of this period. Now China and Australia have become, relatively recently, prominent players in the world trade The decline in quantity, quality and the rise in cost were such that, in recent years, the export trade in ginger has, it appears, gone virtually extinct. Locally, the low quantity available and the high prices asked for unattractive, often unwashed ginger led to the massive importation of ginger from the East (China, India), much more attractive in size and appearance and less expensive. This has led to the Government reacting with a program of having farmers grow the crop in newer areas, esp. in St. Thomas, to obtain relatively pathogen-free material to be used as seed stock for the traditional growing areas. The scheme has been relatively successful by itself but in the long term it has to be seen as a stop gap, only one link in a production chain, unable to lead to a real ginger industry that the reputation of our ginger merits. It would be astonishing if dried ginger is still exportable, when agronomic and post-harvest practices have hardly advanced from those of, say, 200 years ago. There has been little awareness, or application, of published advances in ginger agronomy, post-harvest operations, phytosanitary requirements, or added-value product possibilities. Former buyers of Jamaican ginger have reformulated their ginger-containing products to use foreignsourced ginger in place of the local extract, thus approximating the local flavour in quality. With this development the export prospects for our ginger are not very good. All that we now have going for us is brand Jamaica and even that may soon count for nothing. Would a typical buyer of ginger cookies, snaps, ginger cake or ginger beer discern or care that they incorporate, or not, ginger from Jamaica? It is this writer`s understanding that Jamaican ginger is now bought, if at all, so that it can
be incorporated into a product in small amounts, along with ginger from other and cheaper sources, thus legally justifying the claim that it contains Jamaican ginger. Perhaps such claims are being made even without any incorporation at all! Had this subterfuge not been so, it would have made absolutely no economic sense to use just Jamaican ginger, priced not merely fractionally higher, but a number of times higher, than from other sources, in ginger-containing products – how can it make sense otherwise? A local Australian expatriate academic said that a few years ago he saw in his home country a cookie-like product produced there with the words Jamaican Ginger prominently placed on the label. Can one really believe that Australia, a prominent and efficient ginger growing country, is/has been making a product really containing Jamaican ginger? This label may be seen on the website from the Chemistry Dept. of the UWI, http://wwwchem.uwimona.edu.jm:1104/lectures/ginger.html. Note that there is no dot between www and chem! The Australians have not only been applying research and development to the agronomy and postharvest and processing practices of ginger but also to an extensive line of added-value products, attractively presented, and aggressively marketed. The latter development was partly in response to the Australians being unable to compete with China and India on ginger as a commodity, even though their (Australia) agronomy had been the most advanced. As a result the Australians now offer an unrivalled range of attractive ginger-based confectioneries. More of this later. What, in more detail, of the local factors affecting ginger? The first one, mentioned above, is in fact not a recent phenomenon. The term, ginger rhizome rot, is a sort of one-stop expression to cover a range of causal factors in the soil, resulting in poor yield and quality of the crop. Plant pathologists have identified fungi as major diseases, such as Fusarium, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Verticillium and Pseudomonas species; also nematodes of the Meloidogyne specie. There may be other kinds of organisms but presumably of lesser importance locally. Use of the term “ginger rot” could be found in an American article in 1898 and presumably had been coined even earlier. In more recent times, at least one shipment of dried ginger has been rejected by a European importer because of mold contamination, caused not by an agronomic factor but by poor postharvest practice. So, ginger diseases have been around for a long time but were apparently not a very serious problem until relatively recent times. Serious symptoms of damage to local cultivation began to be noticed around 1995 (Phillip Chung, “ Outbreak of Ginger Rhizome Rot in the Major Growing Areas of Jamaica “, Proc. of the 34th Annual Meeting, 1998 – Caribbean Food Crops Soc., p. 220 – 228). Damage levels have been averaging 55%. Initial steps to fight the GRR included use of healthy planting material, crop rotation, field sanitation, soil drench with fungicide but they did not significantly improve the overall situation. In 1997, an experiment was started to study the effect of dipping planting material in fungicide mixtures. The general conclusion regarding the results seems to be that fungicides have a positive effect on yields but many variables were not factored out enough to decide if this treatment alone was practically worthwhile. Follow-up experiments were recommended regarding a more detailed picture of the complex of GRR diseases involved, disease management tactics, and possibilities of using genetic engineering; however, there were no systematic follow-ups on these recommendations, but a procedure was developed of obtaining “clean” planting material by hot water dipping of planting setts. The second local factor in the adverse situation of ginger is that of poor postharvest practice. As exemplified until recently, one saw local ginger in food outlets with a most unattractive appearance, with adhering soil, stunted size, sections with indications of many days of postharvest existence and commensurate desiccation (shriveled appearance and lightness of weight). Even now, one still sees
examples of all this, albeit less frequently. The lesser quantity of local ginger available, along with the attendant high prices, would have continued were it not for the importation of Chinese ginger, of far more attractive appearance and price. The extant postharvest aspects of ginger production consists of a chain of exercises that simply violate Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) rules, conformity to which is essential to the crop`s exportability. As alluded to above, for the local market one still sees ginger being offered unwashed; for export as whole rhizomes and for processing one expects the rhizomes to be washed but that seems to be about the only extent that there is cognizance of good sanitary practice. For the production of dried ginger the rhizomes are peeled by hand; a laborious and tedious task that results in low output and high cost. The ginger would then be placed on large meshed trays set in the open for drying for many days. If rain threatens, the crop is bagged and placed under shelter until the conditions are again right. During the periods of being in the open the crop is subjected to various sorts of contamination – dust, bacteria, insects, incursion of animals, bombardments of a certain kind from birds flying overhead, and, if the drying period is unduly long, resulting in a long exposure to the presence of moisture, to the development of potentially deadly aflatoxin fungus – as has happened to at least one shipment to Germany. As said above, the government has reacted, initially, by having clean material produced and used for growing relatively pathogen-free rhizomes, that could in turn be used as setts for growing commercial crops. Technically, this appeared to have been successful but the effort seemed to have been compromised by some growers selling the crops from the clean material to buyers engaged in trade. The result, seemingly, is that the commercial goals of this exercise are not being fully realized. One still sees imported ginger alongside local ones, with the latter still at a disadvantage regarding appearance and price. Even if the immediate objectives of the exercise had been realized it would not have led to a really viable industry. It was an ad hoc reaction to a particular agronomic problem and not a visionary plan to carry a ginger industry to new heights. In fairness, recognition of this has led to four initiatives regarding ginger. One was/is jointly sponsored by the NCST (National Commission on Science and Technology, an arm of the Office of the Prime Minister) and the CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation) which conducted a study on the ginger (and mango) situation in Jamaica. A second initiative was/is supported by the SRC / OAS (Scientific Research Council / Organization of American States), which dealt with the crop in a different and complementary manner. The third is a revealing study done by the Agricultural Support Services Project, “Jamaican Ginger: Current Situation and Investment Potential “. Finally there was an initiative by EJASP, Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project, which, among its tasks, included the growing of ginger planting material in areas new to the crop and therefore having a greater yield than in the traditional areas.
The SRC/OAS Project
Titled, “Supporting the Development of a Nutraceutical Industry in Jamaica “, this deals with five crops deemed suitable for development work – ginger, turmeric, rosemary, lemongrass and sorrel. Objectives included: • • Extraction and quantification of actives obtained from selected local raw materials of ethnomedicinal value Development of methods of standardization of and establishment of extraction protocols for standardized extracts
Development of value-added products for potential commercialization Increasing the awareness of the potential income generating activities associated with a nutraceutical/functional foods
Activities intended to achieve the objectives included: • • • • Training in standardization and purification procedures Documentation of extraction and standardization protocols for selected plants Training of extension staff – RADA, Ministry of Agriculture personnel Hosting of a symposium for entrepreneurs, small farmers and community groups, traditional knowledge-holders, etc.
Technical work done via the SRC included:
Development work on the extraction of ginger oil and oleoresin and their characterization; comparison of properties with those from other sources. Work done on an advanced method of extraction via supercritical fluid extraction - new to us but long used commercially abroad. Analytical and standardization protocols for actives ingredients.
The NCST/CTA Project
This study, titled, “ Agricultural, Science and Technology Innovation Systems in Jamaica : A Case Study on Ginger and Mango “, in brief, seeks to promote the concept of an (sic) innovative systems, in which science and technology are used for the economic advancement of developing countries. The overall objective of the project was to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the science, technology and innovative systems in the agricultural sector through a detailed case study and survey of actors with two chosen sub-sectors. For Jamaica, the ginger and mango sectors were chosen for a detailed case study to explicate the concept, and to suggest a way forward for the two crops to be significant players in export trade. As would be expected, the study identified the factors resulting in the industry’s (ginger) decline. They are as follows
• • • • •
Non-competitiveness in the world market High cost of peeling for drying and export in traditional form. Declining demand because of inconsistent supply. Failure to capitalize on preparation of sliced unpeeled ginger, which had an increasing demand on the world market. Lowered production caused by rhizome rot disease. The organizational/institutional arrangements for the production and marketing were inadequate. Despite the noticeable decline in production over a period, there were insufficient scientific interventions in areas which were critically affected.
The situation prompted the Government to execute the Ginger Rescue Project through:
• • •
• • •
Ginger Planting Material Multiplication Project. This involved the distribution of tissue culture plantlets to farmers in St. Mary, St. Thomas, Portland, Clarendon and Manchester. Production Area Diversification, involving cultivation in non-traditional planting regions. Free or subsidized distribution of planting material. Technical assistance to farmers. Including pretreatment of planting material to minimize rhizome rot and soil tests with respect to the disease. Price Subsidy Incentive. Direct purchase from farmers at subsidized price. Guaranteed market. The Export Division of the Ministry of Agriculture was given the task of purchasing the produce from farmers and sourcing markets locally and internationally. The Division also conducts a peeling/slicing/drying operation at its headquarters A community-based drying and storage facility was constructed in 2003 in Bourbon, Portland, through the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project (EJASP), jointly funded by the EU. A committee was established to ensure/monitor the implementation of the development plan
The study mapped a large number of “critical actors” who are now players in the industry or would be so in a renovated industry. Some of those directly engaged are:
The Producers: Farmers/Farmer Organizations and Cooperatives. There is said to be about five thousand and five hundred smallholdings comprising twenty six groups in Portland, St. Mary, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Clarendon and Manchester. St. James and Trelawny are mentioned as major traditional producers. The average plot size is 0.1 to 0.2 acres, though there are some cultivations of up to 0.7 to 1 acre. In the Christiana area, many of the farmers are linked with and receive assistance from The Christian Potato Growers Cooperative Association; there is also an overlapping linkage with the JAS.
Government Ministry of Agriculture and Associated Agencies. The main players here are:
RADA. A statutory body formed to revitalize the extension services and embrace a broadened set of other roles – Training , Marketing, Social Services, Production, Accounts and Information Technology. Bodles Agricultural Research Station. It was (in conjunction with RADA?) instrumental in identifying the causative agents of ginger rhizome rot and in providing properly clean planting material. The Ministry and associated agencies, up to the 1970s, were strongly involved in serving the small farmers in various ways, including an active extension service. Through policy shifts brought about by circumstances such support declined, especially with attrition in the extension service. The function of the latter was taken over by RADA, established in 1990, but the manpower and support inputs never reached the levels of the former service.
Exporting. The Ministry`s Export Division, primarily engaged in the overseas marketing of dried pimento berries, was given the task, in view of the travails affecting the crop, of buying, processing (peeling and drying), and exporting ginger. The high cost of production meant that the price to the farmers had to be subsidized otherwise it would have been totally unexportable. The private sector is not excluded from exporting ginger. • Research Institutions The Scientific Research Council. Also a government institution, as an agency of the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology. It had been doing work initially on ginger products and extraction procedures before being tasked with the production of clean ginger planting material by micropropagation through tissue culture. Bodles Agricultural Research Station (BARS). Again, an arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, it works closely with RADA in promoting farmer-driven research. It was instrumental, in collaboration with RADA, in identifying the causal agents of the ginger rhizome-rot disease and also operates/operated nurseries to provide disease-free ginger planting material. Biotechnology Centre/ Department of Life Sciences, UWI. It did some amount of work on tissue culture and molecular fingerprinting of ginger, not much work was done on practical/commercial aspects of the initiatives. • Private Sector Processors. In terms of intermediate products, ginger has long been dried and powdered for various uses. For further value-added activity, the foreign firm Bush, Boake and Allen extracted oleoresin from the powder but has since ceased operation in the island. Because of unfavorable cost the takeover entity has not continued this operation. A wide range of companies, from small, medium-sized to large, are involved in agroprocessing using ginger, not necessarily Jamaican, as an ingredient. Products include sauces, preserves, tea bags, gingered bullas (?), ginger snaps/cookies, ginger beer. Inconsistent supplies and variable quality have caused some processors to use imported ginger powder. In export, the major players are the Export Division of the MoA, and perhaps a very few private ones. The study, after discussion of other matters, made recommendations for the strengthening of agricultural, science and technology innovation systems specific to the ginger (and mango) sectors, including:
Linkages between the demand, enterprise, research, diffusion and infrastructure sectors to be strengthened. Strengthening of linkages between research institutions and producers to facilitate more market-driven research and technology transfer.
• • • • •
• • •
Research activities within private sector organizations needing to be increased as most research activities are initiated in government research organizations and the universities. A dire need for functional research facilities in the rural areas for easy access by small farmers. Micro-propagation techniques to be utilized on a larger scale for clean planting materials. More biotechnological research in the ginger (and mango) sectors to provide improved germplasm and new varieties, especially with respect to rhizome size, yield, and disease resistance. Extension services to be strengthened, especially in the remote rural areas. For farmer groups engaged in ginger production, support services including training in group dynamics, business management, record keeping Revamping of the approach to ginger production, including mechanization at all levels of the process to increase yield and lower the price. To have all stakeholders brought together to vision a strategy for the development of an industry, a global market need study and strategies to capture/develop niche markets. The availability of finance, at modest interest rates, to allow for innovation at various levels in the system, including added-value processing and nutraceuticals. The establishment of a national Ginger Growers Association to coordinate production efforts and function as a marketer. A policy environment for the support of the agricultural, science and innovative framework that is revised and improved through the use of incentives, regulations, risk financing and the introduction of new technologically-led ideas to expand market opportunities. The popularization of the ASTI concept - Agricultural, Science and Technology Innovation to facilitate “buy-in” of all stakeholders, followed by the establishment of specific mechanisms for successful implementation.
JAMAICAN GINGER : CURRENT SITUATION & INVESTMENT POTENTIAL A Study by the ASSP (Agricultural Support Services Project, Sep, 2004). Prepared by Michael Ramsay
This study, inevitably, overlapped many of the points covered by the other two studies but it offered some very interesting items of its own. The price of the ginger charged by the Export Division - in addition to the high cost already incurred at the farming stage - derives from the “costs associated with 6% shrinkage, fumigation every 3 months, insurance, finance charges, management, and labour for general handling and a 100% inspection prior to export “. These are very burdensome charges, in addition to agronomic and climatic factors, for a crop grown by a large number of growers with small plots, often in areas where logistics is a serious challenge. Relatively recently, split dried ginger has been produced in order to avoid the high cost of peeling ginger. Despite the higher fibre content it is acceptable for many processing purposes, especially as the unpeeled rhizome has much of the pungent components just under the skin and so would be more suitable for oil and oleoresin extraction. Notwithstanding the above advantages of split ginger, the product in this form remains not very viable because of a limited local market and still high export price, due to having to enforce rigid sanitary and
quality standards. The product, at the time of the report, was priced at about twice the price of peeled ginger from China, India or Nigeria, and did not include handling, storage and administrative costs. Ginger powder has a local and international market, made from peeled or unpeeled material. The local market uses it for ginger tea, biscuits, cookies, pastries. The local market can be said to be a captive outlet but obviously it is not now a viable export item. Ginger oil and oleoresin represent added-value stages in the commercial exploitation of ginger. The latter had been produced locally by a foreign-based concern but, since the takeover by a local group, production was discontinued, chiefly because of economics; and also because buyers preferred using their own equipment for better quality control and to realize the benefit of added-value operation for themselves. As for ginger oil, in 2003 the Technosol factory in St. Elizabeth steam-distilled a test batch of ginger oil at a cost of some US$60 per kg. Despite the high quality rating, this compared most unfavorably with products from China and India costing some US$20 per kg. The report quoted an interesting fact from STATIN (Statistical Institute of Jamaica) regarding sources of ginger import. In 2002, 10,499 kg. was imported from Canada; 50,821 kg. from U.S.A.; 13,950 kg. from India; and 12,973 kg. from China. Obviously, Canada and U.S.A. were acting as middlemen in the trade. The seriousness of the low yield was shown by figures which ranged between 1 to 2 tonnes per hectare in the traditional growing areas. With the EJASP program in St. Thomas, not a traditional ginger area, the average yield in 2003 was 6.6 tonnes/ha. This was achieved with the use of planting material free of GRR (rhizomes and tissue culture plants) , cultivation in presumably disease-free fields and the necessary material and extension inputs. The improvement in yield may seem substantial but by world standards it can only be considered marginal. The report quotes figures of 13 – 18 tonnes for India, 40 tonnes for Hawaii, and up to 75 tonnes for Australia. I have seen the astonishing figure of 178 tonnes in a research article. Just how much of an impact that peeling expense has on the cost of dried ginger was provided by the study. The process is tedious and has traditionally been done by family members of growers; it is now difficult to find persons to do it. The peeling rate is about 12 kg. per day, resulting in about 2.4 kg. when dried. At the current rate of US$11.30 per day at the time of the report, September 2004, the labour cost to peel ginger amounted to about US$4.70 per kg (US$2.13 per lb.). This is apart from other costs of production and profit margin. Thus, this single item of the production process far exceeds the price of peeled ginger from other countries. The study not only provided peeling cost in ginger production but an analysis of all of the inputs needed . It must be firmly borne in mind that no one set of figures can be typically representative of the cost of production. The circumstance and various parameters greatly influence the final cost per kg. of the raw crop; and, as a consequence, the baseline assumptions will result in figures which may or may not point to ginger being a viable export crop for the future. Variables include whether the land has been cultivated previously and therefore require less preparation than land not recently cultivated; whether the grower “subsidizes” the cost of cultivation with his/her own labour; whether the pathogen status of the soil will permit high or low yield; whether or not the planting material is from a just-reaped crop and therefore is pathogen-infected, or if clean but costly material is used; whether the plot is so located as to render transportation difficult and costly; whether the local rainfall pattern allows acceptable availability of water; whether finance is available at reasonable rates – so that all needed inputs for
maximum yield can be afforded; whether modern agronomic practice, including mechanization, is adopted. Thus, a model case was developed, for the year 2003, by the study for a farm of one hectare (2.471 acres, 10,000 square meters), with a virgin planting of ginger. The labour/equipment subset of costs embraced: land clearing, $37,500; tractor ploughing, $15,000; harrow and furrowing, $15,000; treating setts (dipping in fungicide), $700; planting, $8,400; fertilizing, $2,800; weedicide spraying, $1,400; harvesting, $12,600; cleaning and bagging, $17,500; transport to farmgate, $5,700. Subtotal, $116,600. The second subset of costs embraced material input of: planting setts, $124,960; fertilizer, $30,261; manure, $37,500; fungicide, $5,400; weedicide, $2,005. Subtotal, $200,126. The third subset of costs embraced other costs of: contingencies (10% of labour and material), $31,673; tools, $5,830; land charges, $6,175; supervision (15% of labour and material), $47,509; interest on working capital at 13% for 6 months, $41,174. Subtotal, $132,361. Overall total, $449,087. A marketable yield of 11,400 kg. is assumed. Thus, the cost of production works out at $39.39 per kg. ($17.91 per lb.). For the case of land previously planted in ginger, the land clearing cost is avoided, giving a labour/equipment subtotal of $79,100. The material input cost is not a factor in planting setts because they are derived from the previous crop, and manure is deemed not needed in a succeeding year after application.. Subtotal, $36,664. The third subset of other costs involves lower figures for the individual inputs and the absence of interest on working capital. Subtotal, $39,071. Overall total, $154,834. This leads to a cost of production of $13.58 per kg. ($6.17 per lb.) These are reasonable figures despite the assumed marketable yield being only moderate by the best world standards. It can only be imagined what the figure could be if we could obtain merely half the yield value of 75 tonnes per hectare achieved by the Australians, not to mention the 178 tonnes obtained from a research project! Contrast the above figures with the cost estimates calculated by the agricultural ministry for “real life” cases in a number of locations. In one location, Bath in St. Thomas, a marketable yield of 6,670 kg. was assumed. In the situation of land cultivated for the first time, the first subset of costs was itemized as Labour Operations only, not Labour/Equipment as in the model case above. Land clearing at $30,000; forking at $65,000; refining at $7,000 (for a cumulative $102,000) replace land clearing at $37,500; tractor ploughing at $15,000; harrow and furrowing at $15,000 for a cumulative $67,500 in the model case. Furrowing and planting at $21,000 replace planting at $8,400 for the model case. Weeding and moulding at $26,250 replace weedicide spraying at $1,400 for the model case. Fertilizing at $2,800 replaces fertilizing at $1,400 for the model case. Other costs in this sector of costs remain largely unchanged. Thus for cultivation on new land this subsector cost is $116,600, while for the Bath area it is $186,185. The Labour Operations input costs thus show huge differences between the two cases, the difference amounts to $69,585. This is just for the first subset of inputs. The second subsets (Material Inputs) show an even greater difference. For the model case, the ginger setts were priced at $55 per kg., giving a cost , for 2272 kg. used, of $124,960; and for the Bath example, the price was $160 per kg., giving a cost of $363,920 for the same amount used.
The third subsets (Other Costs) also showed substantial differences. For the model case, the contingency figure was $31,673 and for the Bath case, $67,122.50; for supervision, the model case was $47,509, and for the Bath case, $100,683.75; for interest on working capital (13% for six months), $41,174 for the model case, and $54,977.41 for the Bath case. The respective subtotals were $132,361 and $229,558.80 respectively. The overall cost for the Bath case amounted to $900,783.80, and for the assumed marketable yield of 6670 kg. the production cost worked out as $135.05 per kg. For an already cultivated field the equivalent value is $117.95. Thus, in a “real life” case, not necessarily closely representative, production cost is clearly prohibitive. The Investment Potential. On the basis of the model case developed above, especially with respect to growing on previously cultivated soil, the study concludes that ginger production can be done at competitive cost and that export can be highly profitable provided that the market can be recovered. The same sentiment applies to ginger oil and oleoresin. Recommendations for a Competitive Ginger Industry. areas: The recommendations are grouped in two
1. Increasing yields. The strategy is based on implementation in non-traditional production areas free of GRR and suitable for mechanization, and the following factors to be investigated by researchers and extension service.
• • • • • • • •
Planting material. Free of diseases. Nematode control. Possibly using nematicides ; said to be a critical component in Australian production. Crop rotation. After 2 to 3 years of ginger cultivation, as a control of GGR and nematodes. Hot pepper and sweet potato mentioned as alternate crops. Intercropping. Rows of e.g., hot pepper, interplanted to aid in the control of nematodes. Weed control. Use of herbicides, with possibly mechanical (tractor) mode of application. Organic manure. Such as poultry litter, for improving soil nutritional and physical condition and enhancing beneficial soil microorganisms. Fertilizing. Drainage. An important factor as ginger is susceptible to waterlogging. Irrigation. Sprinkler irrigation. To maintain field temperature below 30 C. Australian research indicated that higher temperature causes foliage damage and reduces yield.
2. Reduction of production costs. Three production processes were highlighted for lowering of costs: • Land preparation. Mechanical ploughing and ridging on flat or gently sloping land can reduce cost by 50% or more. • Control. Judicious weedicide use would be economical in fields planted at optimum density. • Harvest. For suitable lands, turning over of the soil for easy harvesting could be done with a modified potato digger powered by a tractor, as is being done by the Australians.
Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Project
As said above, this project, implemented in 2001, and funded by the European Union, was to have provided, among other objectives, better performing clean ginger material for the traditional growing areas. The areas chosen for doing so were in Portland, St. Mary and St. Thomas. Increased yields were realized but hardly comparable with world standards; furthermore, it is also the understanding that much of the crops was diverted to the retail trade. According to another source, having grown the ginger, the farmers were unable to find a market at the price asked for and therefore were not inclined to continue cultivation.
A Critique of the Various Initiatives
It should be quite obvious that, as a generality in human affairs, a totally satisfactory resolution of a problem does not come from only one entity, however good. What has been said above provides good evidence for so saying. Collectively, the initiatives give a good overall picture of the ginger situation and provide sets of proposals for reviving the industry. However, recommendations in themselves do not an action plan make. The final report for The Case Study on Ginger and Mango by the NCST/CTA group was dated January, 2005; the study by ASSP was dated September, 2004. Until quite recently, nothing in the news media suggested that a plan of action was afoot to follow up on the recommendations. It was seeming to be like the situation of our predilection for having a constant stream of conferences, meetings, seminars, workshops, reports, studies, whatever, throughout the year and year after year, on topics of developmental and economic importance but without any discernible practical follow-up from each event. However, in December 2006, there appeared an advertisement, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, inviting bids for consulting services for the conducting of a strategic review of the Export Division and the development of a modernization plan identifying the technical and organizational changes required to support the efficient and effective delivery services to Jamaica`s Spice Industry. This seems to myself, at last, to be a creative response to the situation which the various initiatives had diagnosed. Presumably, applications for the consultancy are still in processing stage but, unless I have missed any pronouncement in the media relating to the matter, there has been no public comment on it from the government side, albeit there have been many pronouncements on other areas of agriculture. So, the herb and spice industry is seemingly to get serious attention from the Government. What of ginger in particular, surely a major player? The scope and depth of the proposed plan need to be known to the public as quickly as possible, as there must be many actual and potential players unaware of this plan and whose early involvement would greatly advance its cause – for ginger especially, the window for ameliorative action for it as an export product is very narrow. It may soon vanish altogether, beyond effective recall. The collective recommendations of the NCST/FAO and ASSP studies seem to cover everything required for ginger resuscitation. Nevertheless, there are aspects that would bear looking into in detail. The following recommendations of the NCST/FAO initiative are commented on.
On the insufficient biotechnological research in the ginger sector to provide improved germplasm and new varieties, there is no mention of sourcing foreign information and
developments that would augment and shorten the timetable for achieving these goals. The limited local biotechnological capacity, unless greatly expanded, might dictate using the technique to a single objective of producing clean planting material. After all, farmers apparently have been using imported ginger to produce ginger of similarly large size. It needs to be determined if the imports can be “Jamaicanized” in whatever way and therefore to avoid an immediate need to research new varieties. Also, news of promising varieties could be obtained from the printed literature and the Internet.
Rather than the suggested national Ginger Growers Association, it would be better to have a Ginger Industry Association, functioning as an entity along the lines of one of the better organized and run commodity boards, in which all stakeholders – farmers, agronomists, buyers/traders, processors, scientists/technologists, managers/coordinators – would be served in a thoroughly dedicated and professional manner. The stated need for the popularization of the ASTI system (Agricultural, Science and Technology Innovation) to facilitate “buy-in” of all stakeholders, to be followed by the establishment of specific mechanisms to facilitate successful implementation, would be served in large part or wholly by the proposed Ginger Industry Association.
Comments on some ASSP recommendations are as follows:
Planting material. Although hot-water dipping of cut pieces of reaped ginger can provide clean planting material, tissue culturing of plantlets could be a supplementary source - having a number of advantages, possibly including cost-effectiveness, and a greater assurance of planting material sterility - with a laboratory that is well setup and run efficiently. Nematode control. The only control measure mentioned is the possibility of using nematicides, said to be crucial component in Australian production. However, use of synthetic chemicals for soil pathogen treatments is increasingly frowned on for a number of reasons. But all is not necessarily lost since there are a number of “natural” alternative treatment and agronomic strategies that are promising and actually being used. It may be extremely worthwhile to know the basic facts about nematodes. Nematodes, or roundworms, are tiny wormlike organisms, in most cases, though the range of size is from 0.3 mm. to some 8 meters in length. They are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth – a typical handful of soil has thousands of them. There are some 20,000 described species, some beneficial but most parasites of insects, animal and plants. The specie that is of concern here is Meloidogyne, which feeds on the root of plants, thus causing the root knot syndrome. They enter root tips and establish feeding sites inside and also lay thousands of eggs there. They do not move very far on their own power and are spread by movement of infested soil, water and plants. Transfer can occur through human activity, including soiled hands, boots, equipment, tools. Population can reach very high levels in land continuously cultivated. Obviously, their presence is not beneficial to plant health, as evidenced by roots having swellings and galls and a rotten appearance, and the plants above ground showing typical symptoms of poor nutrition. In addition to which, the physical damage caused by the invasion encourages an opportunistic attack by secondary parasites, esp. fungi and bacteria. Nematode control by “natural” means can be tried in the following ways:
Crop rotation. This is one of the ASSP recommendations for control of GRR and nematodes. Suggested to be for 2 to 3 years after ginger cultivation, with hot pepper and sweet potato mentioned as suitable alternate crops. Intercropping. This generally involves planting rows of e.g., hot pepper, or other crops that aid in the control of nematodes, between the ginger rows. Control mechanism is not discussed in the study but nematode control by intercropping most often involves the exudates of the roots of the companion crop(s) exerting a mortal, static or reducing effect on the nematodes (or other pathogens). In this regard, the plant most often mentioned in the research literature is marigold, esp. of the tall French varieties. Whenever marigold is used as a companion crop in intercrop experiments, the results reported are always of significant increases in the yield of host crops, outweighing that reduction of host crop yield due to the loss of space occupied by the marigold. The use of marigold is not only in this way - that of being grown at the same time as the host crop - but also as sole crop in itself. In one study, marigold cultivation reduced the population of the nematode, Pratylenchus penetrans, by 90% in 105 days of growth. Although, because of the relatively short life cycle of nematodes in fallow fields, the population is expected to decline exponentially with time, this rate of reduction is indicative of the presence of marigold being inimical to the coexistence of nematodes. Although intercropping has been mentioned as being practiced by most small farmers in the growing of ginger it is not as a deliberate application of modern agronomic principles but as one of a haphazard mix of cash crops, with ginger, for instance, grown in a plot of its own. Thus the interaction between serried, alternate rows of host and companion crops is not really there. Apart from the soil pathogen control provided by a suitable companion crop, there are two other effects that can be exploited by intercropping. The first is that of the concept of Land Equivalent Ratio, applied to the cultivation of two (or more) crops of commercial importance, in which, though the yield of each crop would be lower than the yield of the same crop as monoculture in the same area, the combined yields of the two crops would exceed the yield from that area if used for just one of the crops. To give an example, a LER of 1.5 means, in simplistic term, that an intercropped hectare gives an agronomic yield of 150% of the same area when monocropped. Obviously, a figure of 150% is not to be sneezed at, and LERs of above 2 are not uncommon, at least in the research literature. Thus, if we are to be serious about ginger yield, then intercropping must be one of the agronomic factors to be explored in depth. That it is viable for ginger appears to be borne out by a number of published research results. In one project, with an experiment where bell pepper (sweet pepper) and ginger were planted in one-to-one ratio, the ginger rhizome planting material realized a yield of 600 grams, the bell pepper plant a yield of 300 grams of pepper. The control experiment of ginger as sole crop realized only 300 grams per rhizome planted. Thus, in the
intercrop, conveniently assuming that each crop occupied half of the area cultivated, half of the area produced the same amount of ginger as the entire area cultivated only in ginger - and there is the bonus of a good crop of sweet pepper. In another research, ginger was interplanted in a mango orchard. The yield realized was 17,302 kg. per hectare in ginger, and 7,856 kg. for the mango. The yield for the control – sole mango cultivation – was 7,760 kg. So, for the intercrop cultivation, mango actually realized a greater yield, albeit slight; and ginger realized a much greater yield than the yield quoted for the Ministry of Agriculture`s model case for local (and highly profitable) production.
In this case however, the result stems not from anti-pathogenic effects, if any exist, of mango roots, but from two base factors. One is that use is made of the large proportion of the area not occupied by the widely-spaced mango trees. The respective root systems occupy totally different soil strata, so that competition for soil nutrients is minimal. Secondly, ginger does best in substantial shade, as would be provided by the trees – up to 50% shade has been reported to give acceptable results. There will be a need to do extensive research into how optimal shading is applied, e.g., by interplanting with coconut, mango or other shade-giving crops, and by growing in shade houses which provide a more controlled and consistent level of light intensity. There are additional advantages to intercropping. Weed growth is less; soil temperature is lower, which is beneficial to the rhizomes since temperatures above 30 C are deleterious. Not unimportantly, the lower soil temperature means less subsurface water evaporation and so making rain-fed cultivation more viable. Weed control. Hand weeding is declared as being tedious, time-consuming and expensive, and therefore a herbicide is recommended. Synthetic chemicals need not be the only form of chemical control. In organic agriculture circles, spraying of weeds with vinegar is recommended for control. This I have “confirmed “ with a single experiment. On a commercial scale, using vinegar meant for food use would be too costly, but industrial acetic acid, bought in bulk and diluted to 3%, which is the strength of the acid in vinegar, should be quite economical. Another strategy for weed control is that of using a “torch”, fueled from a portable propane tank that, with a brief pass, would cause destruction of the weed. As stated in the ASSP report, the very fact of export ginger needing to be fumigated every three months means that it is kept and stored over long periods, thus giving rise to gradual physical and chemical degradation, and rhizomes in varying stages of freshness and staleness. Studies have shown that there is a gradual loss of the original active principles of ginger (raw or dried), mainly 6-gingerol, by way of conversion to shogaols. Fortunately, the shogaols also have similar pungency characteristics as the gingerols. Even so, to be dealing in shipments of ginger, each with ginger with
pieces in varying state of freshness/staleness does not indicate a modern approach to a spice industry. What is needed, amongst other things, is agronomy which results in year-long harvesting, expeditious processing and shipment.
Ginger Added-value Products
So far, discussion has been centered on the raw material side and its trading as a commodity. Processing it to the stage of dried product, peeled or split, does not mean value has really been added. The very high price asked is merely to cover, or partially cover, the cost of peeling. The customers are overseas processors who convert the dried ginger into intermediate or end products of true high added value. A reconstructed (or more truthfully, a constructed) ginger industry must address the need to be engaged in many areas of value-added goods that would guarantee a healthy financial viability of such an industry. There are three broad categories of goods that can be produced. The first is that of food and confectionery. Generally, in cooking, ginger is used to add piquancy to the food in which it is incorporated. Intentionally or unknowingly, it has the additional property of tenderizing meats because of the presence of an enzyme that acts on the connective tissues of proteins – this is especially obvious when used as a major ingredient in a marinating mixture for meats. This enzyme, in fact, has been isolated and characterized. It has tenderizing properties that make it superior to papain, derived from papaya latex, in this function. Unlike papain, the ginger enzyme selectively acts on certain structural features of animal meat protein so that the meat is made tender without producing a mushiness that would result with papain. If it could be made into a stable dry product there might be a substantial if narrow market for it as a means of adding substantially more value to tough-textured meats. There is, in principle, the possibility of conch meat being so treated that the “mouth feel” is greatly enhanced, without recourse to a crude and bothersome pounding with a mallet. It – the enzyme- would surely be a much desired product, as well as greatly increasing the already high value of conch so treated. Other possibilities in the culinary field, apart from the more common ones of syrups, jams/marmalades, liqueurs, cookies, cakes, bread, beer, and ale are: • Pickled ginger. Usually as thin slices for the essential accompaniment to sushi. An establishment offering sushi may use about a 5-gallon pail of the ginger per month. There are quite a few such establishments in Jamaica, so it would be a good niche market – it is now being imported from Florida. Preserved ginger. Ginger which is “mellowed” in sugar syrup. Used as spicy-sweet condiment or frozen in ice-creams. Australia is said to produce superior preserved ginger for export. Candied ginger. Cut pieces are slow-cooked in syrup, and rolled in granulated sugar. One of the world`s oldest candies and still the most attractive (and healthy!); it turns up in Marco Polo`s description of Chinese street food. Western diners, from medieval England to colonial America, nibbled slices of it after meals as dessert and digestif (digestion aid). Candied ginger, whenever samples are tried by newcomers to it, has been met with delightful acclaim and a wish to see it commercially available; indeed, candied ginger is regarded as a delicacy of the choicest kind. So, in recent years, this type of ginger has become an important item of production and export in Australia, China, Taiwan and Singapore. China and India, the oldest manufacturers of preserved ginger, have developed methods and techniques of preserving which provide them with sweets of exceptional quality. We could surely do the same, with a perhaps smaller range of products, and
gain a marketing advantage with brand Jamaica. Candied ginger has sugar, but much less so than the usual run of confectionery which, almost by definition, consists of solidified sugar mass (or, at least rich in sugar) with a dash of artificial flavoring and synthetic coloring. Recently, the only local added-value activity regarding ginger seems to be that of producing the powder for beverage, ginger tea, baked goods and related products. Even then, because of the confused position with respect to ginger, a compounder of ginger tea is unable to get any locally-produced powder, for over six months now, despite a desire to use it in place of cheaper imports. With the persistence of this situation, the compounder cannot honestly market the tea with the present packaging having brand Jamaica labeling. The second category of added-value goods is that of natural medicinal treatment. Ginger has long, in its known history, been a prominent and prized component in the armamentarium of the traditional medical practices of China and India. It was and is prized for its many curative/preventive/ameliorative effects. Possibly, some of these effects may be anecdotal in reality, but perhaps awaiting appropriate scientific research to provide validity. Other effects have been proven in clinical studies, and such studies are continuing.. That an effect is anecdotal for the present is certainly not, in itself, a nonproof. The third category is that of nutraceuticals and functional foods There is a close link with the category of medicinal treatment but they are relatively recent terms that apparently still defy concise, exact and universally accepted definition. Much of the early interest in functional foods and nutraceuticals was based on the medicinal uses of herbs and spices. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but incorrectly so. Health Canada defines a functional food as “similar in appearance to, or may be, a conventional food that is consumed as a part of a usual diet, and is demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions, i.e., they contain bioactive compounds”. A nutraceutical is defined as “a product isolated or purified from foods that is generally sold in medicinal forms not usually associated with foods. A nutraceutical is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against chronic disease”. Such products are usually in the form of powders, capsules and pills. Based on these definitions, ginger in use is more a functional food than a nutraceutical – nothing is extracted from the rhizome to produce an active substance for use by itself. The use of ginger as a functional food therefore requires only its purchase as unprocessed rhizomes. The presumed unlikelihood of ginger being used routinely -- every day, and in small amounts – would not provide the benefits that the ginger could supposedly give. The putative medicinal effects of ginger are many, so only the most prominent one will be discussed briefly. The application that is most universal is that of nausea and motion sickness prevention/amelioration. For this effect it seems to be virtually unique in the plant kingdom. There are many mainstream studies which attest to this characteristic – in one study, morning sickness of pregnant women was better alleviated than with the two most common orthodox treatments, vitamin B6 and doxylamine; in fact it may be the treatment of choice by knowledgeable doctors, except for availability in convenient form. Ginger, in capsule or candied forms for this application, seems to be the universally preferred choice for motion sickness, but local availability appears very limited.
Some Further Recommendations
God is in the details – so it is said - and this is as true of an agro-industrial project as any other. There is no scheme, esp. when devised by a small coterie, which cannot benefit from a wide range of inputs, however
humble the source. The structure of a program, the nature of the implementation team, the kind of stake holding, the stringency of the monitoring process, are some of the factors – external circumstance apart - which may mean great success, moderate success, little success, relative failure, or total failure. Jamaica is replete with examples of that statement. A reasonably modernized ginger industry for Jamaica will have to acknowledge the reality of the bulk of the crop being produced by thousands of small-scale farmers. Even with improved yields that advanced agronomy can make possible, the smallness of the holdings and the expectation by such cultivators to earn, nevertheless, a decent income would necessitate the existence of a greater number of large-scale farms. These two legs of the raw material production process would operate within the framework of a cooperative – engaging in exporting commodity ginger on a large scale and in added-value operations - from which the small farmers would gain additional income. Despite the concern about fungal and bacterial diseases in the ginger rhizome rot phenomenon, it may be that nematodes should be the pathogen of primary concern. As stated above, there seems to be an invariable cooccurrence of nematodes, fungi and bacteria whenever GRR is encountered. My own speculation is that the physical damage caused by nematodes worsens, if not initiate, infestation by pathogenic fungi and bacteria. In view of the (total) absence of allowable synthetic nematicides that can be used, there are alternative strategies that have the additional merit of increasing yield. They are as follows: • Allowing land to lie fallow for e.g., six months. Bereft of suitable live host plants, nematodes will experience a (possibly exponential) decline in number. Solarisation of the soil, before planting, by covering it with plastic sheets to heat the subsoil sufficiently - for about four to eight weeks - to adversely affect the nematodes. As related earlier, intercropping with a nematode-antagonistic plant can control, virtually completely, nematode incidence.
The loss of growing time due to the first two strategies is not necessarily a negative. Normally, ginger is allowed to grow for about ten months, when the leaves start to turn yellow and the rhizomes are considered mature. While the flavour and pungency profile make it suitable for many food uses, the lengthy period spent in the soil, esp. if the latter has been continually cultivated, renders the rhizomes exposed to extensive rhizome rot, causing the loss of culinary and visual qualities so evident in recent years. But mature ginger, even when disease-free, is not necessarily the only desirable kind. Plants that can be reaped, as young as four months, present a lesser period of opportunity for pathogens to wreak havoc; the result is rhizomes that are rather different in appearance, being clean and smooth looking – rather like turmeric. This kind is prized in oriental cooking, thanks to a crunchy texture and delicate flavour, as an integral part of the food, rather than mature ginger being used sparingly for flavouring but not ingested. There are two further advantages of using young ginger. One is that it is ideal for making confectionery, particularly candied ginger, which is much liked when samples have been eaten, and could easily be a “best seller” if consistently produced – serving as a candy and simultaneously as a preferred anti-motion sickness aid. The other advantage is that - according to a couple of abstracts of research articles I have seen - young ginger, at about the age of six months, has a greater amount of oil and oleoresin than mature rhizomes. If this be proven to apply locally, it would obviously have huge positive implications for a local ginger extractive industry. Some work on this has been done by the SRC, but a more systematic research work needs to be done to fully validate and exploit this promise. Consideration of space precludes discussion of other aspects in the development of a ginger industry, but there is one topic that is of vital importance in agro-processing, and a consideration not confined to ginger. Much of
the potential that can be realized from agro-processing hinges on the drying process. Presently, the crops that are dried for local and export commerce include most herbs and spices, cocoa, coffee, copra from coconut, pimento berries, and perhaps a few others. Only tobacco, when it was cultivated locally, could have been said to be dried under acceptable conditions – without the lengthy and unhygienic exposure to various contaminations. The drying of any crop now is mostly an expanded backyard operation and would not pass the requirements of modern commerce. The basics of a drying system have been thought out, which overcomes the shortcomings of present day operations – from the unhygienic and slow process of spreading on open surfaces, to solar drying which is subject to low through-put and non-consistency of sunshine. Details will not be discussed here but this, or some other system, is an essential component in adding value, without using high-cost energy, to some crops, esp. those mentioned above. In conclusion, while Ginger Rhizome Rot could be said to be the precipitating factor in the ginger crisis, it was a concatenation of this plus others – poor agronomic practices, sub-optimal but still high-cost inputs, climatic adversity (rain-fed cultivation, hurricanes), inefficient and unhygienic postharvest operations that fail phytosanitary and accountability requirements, unevenness of supply, the very high cost of preparing ginger in a form that is still a commodity – that will cause the ginger situation to remain a conundrum that cannot be resolved by ad hoc reactions to specific problems. As things take time to happen in Jamaica, and the window of opportunity is narrow and fast closing, we should begin urgently to plan a return to a situation when Jamaican ginger ruled the roost, or such a time will became a total and irreversible memory.
Prepared by David Lee Feb 5, 2007 email@example.com (876) 925 1558 (1)- 783 9862
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