Sunday, 12 June 2011

Burmese Ginger, Trade Mission, Licensed Products & Wild Boar

This year's Burmese ginger crop is proving so popular with international buyers that traders are struggling to meet demand. The conditions which led to a poor harvest last December have created a spiciness and fragrance which is attracting the attention of Indian and German buyers. Ginger (known locally as gyin) is not a major export commodity in Burma and demand is typically irregular. The traditional export markets are Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore and China.

Last month a trade mission from the Dominican Republic visited France to promote the export of a range of agricultural products including ginger. The mission was important for the Dominicans as agriculture is second in their list of export earning sectors behind mining. Like many other countries in the Caribbean, ginger has been grown for quite a few years. Until the export market was created, ginger was produced for domestic consumption. The locals even have a special Christmas drink made with ginger and cinnamon.

In the UK, the 1st of May saw the introduction of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD). This directive requires that herbal products can only be sold if they have been registered and licensed by an appropriate agency. This is causing distress to many Indian and Chinese manufacturers as registration can cost in excess of £40,000 for each individual product. But it appears that makers of many herbal products (including ginger) can avoid the cost of registration if the products are labelled and sold as food supplements without any medicinal benefit claims.

Last month we mentioned the story of the elephant attacks on Indian ginger farms. Last week The Telegraph in Calcutta reported that farmers in Darjeeling, cultivating a range of crops including ginger, have been suffering from attacks by wild boar. These wild boar are destroying whole crops by searching for tubers with their snouts. They have also be known to attack and kill humans. Wild boar are distributed widely and live in large family groups. The fact that they breed rapidly means that once in your area they can be difficult to remove. So the farmers response has been to set aside land for a crop which the wild boar will not touch. And this crop is, unsurprisingly, tea. Darjeeling, famous the world over for its black tea, still has room for more growers. This extra tea, certified as organic, will be sold to a local tea garden.

I've just been reading a short report from two years ago by Dr Y C Zala of Anand Agricultural University in India. The report, Ginger cultivation: Capital intensive but profitable, contains a number of interesting statistics but what I found of most interest were the productivity figures. Two years ago the world's average for ginger production was 2,546 kg/ha. India was higher at 3,417 kg/ha but the USA (I think that means Hawaii really) came top with an incredible 51,925 kg/ha. It's just as well that US acreage is small-scale, relatively speaking.

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