Sunday, 27 February 2011

Chinese Speculators, Dog Biscuits And Fairtrade Fortnight

This is a busy time of the year for ginger growers in Thailand as crops are being harvested, processed and exported. It should also be a profitable time but this year exports have been severely reduced because Chinese ginger prices are lower. This should be a classic example of free-market competition but in reality is an example of commodity speculation. Chinese speculators have been buying huge quantities of ginger at low prices which forces the market price down. They then buy more at a higher price and wait for the market price to rise. When the price has risen sufficiently, the speculators offload their stocks bought at the low prices and pocket the difference. Last year the Chinese government intervened to prevent speculating and hoarding in an attempt to re-introduce a level playing field. Unfortunately, the Chinese government measures were implemented too late to prevent the Thai harvest coinciding with the low price point in the speculation cycle.

The Organic Hound Company from New Hampshire, USA, last week announced the launch of a range of organic dog biscuits which includes Organic Pumpkin Ginger for dogs with sensitive systems. Apparently many dogs suffer from sensitive stomachs and nerves during thunderstorms and car journeys and they can be calmed and settled by eating ginger.

The Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX) has announced that it will soon start to trade ginger from Nagaland, a state in the far north-east of India. In the past, Naga farmers have only grown enough ginger for home consumption. Now these farmers are being asked to produce a surplus to trade. This follows a scheme in Sikkim, another north-eastern state, where ginger farmers have received state-funded ginger 'seed' and federal government training.

This year's UK Fairtrade Fortnight will be held from 28th February - 13th March. Fairtrade is a scheme which aims to provide better prices and working conditions for farmers and workers in the developing world. Fairtrade Fortnight encourages supporters and Fairtrade-accredited business to actively promote the scheme.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ginger Coffee, 18th Century Ginger Tea And Hydroponically-Grown Ginger

Last week Nestle reported increased global sales with the emerging markets being the most profitable regions. Emerging markets are classed as those economies undergoing rapid growth and industrialisation. One area the results highlighted was adapting existing products to suit local tastes, such as adding ginger and honey to Nescafe coffee in sub-Saharan countries. Ginger coffee has been common in the Middle East for many years with Qishr from Yemen being very popular. But ginger coffee in the West? I'm not aware of any products but if Nestle would like to send me a sample I would gladly conduct a survey, albeit small, on the UK public.

There were many reports last week in the US media about a University of Maryland archaeological dig at the 1785 Wye Orangery, the only 18th century greenhouse left in North America. What took my eye in particular was the evidence that the African American slaves, who played a major role in the construction and operation of the greenhouse, experimented with ginger root to make tea. It is believed that ginger was being grown in West Africa and the Caribbean by the 15th century so making ginger tea would have been a skill possessed by many slaves by the time of the Wye Orangery.

Two years ago the Jamaican government launched a project which involved growing ginger hydroponically in perlite in greenhouses. This has proved so successful that the project has now been conferred with research centre status. The project was started after farmers suffered poor harvests through lack of crop rotation. Coincidentally, scientists at the University of Arizona in Tuscon have also been experimenting with growing ginger and found that the hydroponic system with perlite produced the best results.

I made a mistake in the Latest News section on when I stated on 18-Feb-2011 that Ajegroup, the Peruvian drinks company, had developed a ginger ale which would be the ideal ingredient in the popular cocktail Chilcano de Pisco. I should have written that development is still ongoing. I'll let you know when it is ready.

Much needed rains have arrived in southern India whilst dry conditions with temperatures reaching 40C are still affecting the north of the country. Unfortunately the rains weren't welcomed by everyone. Four women were injured when they were struck by lightning whilst harvesting ginger.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Industry In Decline, Beverage From Down Under And Fiji Inspection Latest

An Australian produce wholesaler believes that the Queensland ginger industry is in decline and may not even survive. Gary Norris, from Sunshine Coast Produce, said that ginger production probably would not recover from the recent fungus (see last week's blog) and the increasing level of imported produce. The ginger industry responded immediately by dismissing the claim as "greatly exaggerated". It has been suggested that new ground could be made available to growers away from the affected areas.

One of New Zealand's fastest growing companies, Shott Beverages, has announced that it plans to expand its overseas presence. Having been formed a mere three years ago, the company is looking to introduce its famous Lemon, Ginger & Honey beverage to the UK market.

Following last week's report that an Australian biosecurity team had visited Fiji to inspect the ginger production facilities, a decision has still to be made. The Fijians believe that the visit went well and that a positive response will be given shortly.

This week I came across an article describing various signs of ginger deficiency. Interesting though the article was, to describe someone as being deficient in ginger, as others are diagnosed as being deficient in iron or potassium or vitamin A, is irresponsible.

A report in The Grocer magazine said that the price of ginger had increased by 60% in the last year. It quoted a major spice supplier as saying, "Ginger has been a big disaster. China's crop was down last year and Nigeria has realised it can get top dollar so is now eking out exports."

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Biosecurity Visit, Ginger Fungus And Horse Racing Sponsorship

An Australian biosecurity team has visited Fiji to inspect the ginger farms. Fiji would like to break into the Australian market with its fresh ginger. At present it only supplies processed ginger which currently is being well received because of its texture and fibre. The biosecurity team will analyse all aspects of the farms to assess the risks of any potential pests and infectious diseases.

The fungus which affected Queensland’s ginger last year now appears to be spreading after recent wet weather. The Sunshine Coast, renowned for its ginger products, has suffered more than its fair share of inclement weather of late. The current conditions are proving ideal for the spread of pythium soft rot, a highly destructive disease which some of you may have encountered with your tulips. According to Bioversity International "Pythium soft rot is notoriously difficult to manage...all ginger cultivars available today are highly susceptible to soft rot and no resistance or tolerance source has yet been identified".  Bioversity continues "Recent progress...suggests the possibility of broadening the genetic base of order to locate a suitable donor for soft rot resistance". I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Bioversity International well in its endeavours.

It has been announced that Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer will be the title sponsor for the Perth Festival, a three-day horse racing event. This year's meeting will be held from April 27-29. Crabbie's will also sponsor next year's meeting.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Centenarian's Ginger Ale, Bruce Cost Is Back And New Ginger Mixers

Last week we read of the 101st birthday of a woman from Cumbria, UK. What made the story of Jeanie Fletcher particularly interesting was the revelation that she attributes her longevity to ginger ale and garlic. Sounds like a harmless and inexpensive elixir of life.

Concern has been raised in the Indian state of Karnataka as paddy cultivation is being replaced by alternative crops such as ginger. The State government is introducing a scheme whereby farmers can take out loans at one per cent interest. This interest rate will, understandably, appeal to rice farmers as they witness the higher profit in ginger production.

Bruce Cost, the doyen of American ginger ale producers, is back with his latest natural product. It's called Fresh Ginger Ale and it's packed with, you guessed it, fresh ginger.

Halewood International, famous for the popular Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer, is to launch a range of ginger mixers. John Crabbie’s Clear Dry Ginger Ale and Fiery Ginger Beer will be added to the company’s non-alcoholic portfolio. The products, which will be available in time for Burns Night, will be targeted at ABC1 men and women in the 25-55 age group.

A Canadian gambler has been banned from his local casino after reacting furiously to being served, and subsequently drinking, alcoholic ginger beer instead of his usual non-alcoholic ginger ale. He had been teetotal for 34 years.

The price of ginger is set to rise and remain high as a result of lower global supply. The only country to increase ginger production this growing season is India but this country also consumes much of what it produces and has to import additional supplies.