Sunday, 28 August 2011

Living With Tigers, Crabbie's & Toffees, Ginger Radler & Diversification

Tigers are popular and likeable creatures. Likeable, that is, to people who don't live and work in the same environment as the tigers. The difficulties in living alongside the tiger have come to the fore in Bandipur National Park (BNP) in southern Karnataka, India. The Deccan Herald reported that the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) has been brought in to combat the increasing incidents of tiger poaching. Unfortunately, some cases of poaching have allegedly involved ginger farmers who are unwilling or unable to share the BNP (a Project Tiger reserve) with the indigenous tiger.

The Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung ran an article about the increasing popularity of radlers. A radler is a beer-based mixed drink and is typically 50% beer and 50% German-style lemonade. A little bit like a shandy if you are outside of central Europe. The paper said that sales volume, in Austria I assume, has tripled over the past two years. Manufacturers are now considering extending the range of flavours to include herbs, grapefruit and, naturally, ginger. I've tried the traditional lemonade and quite enjoyed it. I suspect the ginger variant will be more like a ginger beer shandy than a ginger-spiced beer.

The Crabbie's team at Halewood International have been at it again. There is never a month which goes by without at least one announcement about a new product or another sponsorship deal or a new advertising campaign with Camilla and George. Just a fortnight after they announced the impending launch of a stronger version of their iconic alcoholic ginger beer they sign a deal to become the official ginger beer of Everton Football Club. The deal is only natural given that both parties share the same home county of Merseyside. For any marketing students out there, forget your textbooks. Just follow Crabbie's and watch a real life masterclass in how to promote a brand.

Pakistan Today made a compelling case for agricultural diversification as the answer to the problem of improving the lot of farmers. One view of diversification advocates the use of secondary crops to generate an additional or replacement income to that provided by the main crops. It is advised that secondary crops are selected on the basis of current market needs and conditions. Using that criteria. ginger fits the bill perfectly as demand is increasing worldwide. In addition, we have already seen ginger used as an intercrop elsewhere and we know that intercropping is a form of secondary crop management.

I've just read that Ginger Island is up for sale. It's an uninhabited national park in the British Virgin Islands. I don't know where its name comes from but I do know that it is on the market for $20 million. I think that I'll give it a miss.

We haven't had any responses yet to last week's request for help with Old English Ginger Wine from Rock & Rye Sales. It does seem to be very difficult but persevere please.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Spare Ginger, Prison Farmers, Pickled Ginger & Help Required

If there is anyone reading this who has some spare ginger to export, this will be of particular interest to you. I've been reading an International Trade Centre publication entitled "Tropical Fruits And Vegetables In China - Market Overview". Ginger features quite prominently in this report which is not surprising as China produces quite a lot of it. Unfortunately for Chinese exporters they also eat quite a lot it. They eat so much of it, in fact, that the Chinese domestic market is growing at 10% a year which, using official 2009 figures, translates into an extra 650,000 tons. Using these same figures, from a domestic harvest of 6,500,000 tons, 340,000 tons went for export, presumably to the West and commanding a high price. For the same period imports were 782,000 tons (a tenfold increase on the previous year) with most being imported in November and December. You can see that the Chinese are finding it difficult to produce enough to keep pace with demand. So here is your opportunity. Go for it and make a Chinese consumer happy.

I've just realised that although the Chinese consume ginger at a far higher rate than the global average, we at All Things Ginger can't be far behind.

The same report also mentions that a lot of ginger imported into China comes from Thailand. And much of this ginger is in salted form. A typical production cycle is as follows: 1) Japanese customers will select their preferred salted ginger supplier in Thailand; 2) The salted ginger is exported from Thailand to China (probably Shandong Province); 3) The salted ginger is converted into pickled ginger; and 4) The pickled ginger is exported from China to Japan.

The Sri Lankan Daily Mirror reported an interesting story about a new scheme which the Sri Lankan government are launching. The Prisons and Rehabilitation Ministry, in conjunction with the Minor Export Crop Ministry, will be improving the agricultural skills of prisoners by encouraging them to cultivate prison land. And as this is Sri Lanka, ginger will be one of the crops.

The Deccan Herald reported that farmers in the Indian state of Karnataka have wasted hundreds of thousands of rupees treating their ginger seed without taking expert advice. The claim was made by District General Secretary Gurushanthappa of Raitha Sangha, a powerful farmers movement. He said that farmers had been convinced by local agrochemical companies of the need to treat their seed without the advice and support of the state agriculture and horticulture departments who he accused of neglecting ginger. It is not difficult to see how farmers in many parts of the world could be persuaded to use chemicals as their whole livelihood depends on the outcome of the next harvest.

Halewood International, famous for its Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer, is set to launch a stronger 6% abv version later this month. Crabbie's Black will be available from the 26th August and targeted at an older male audience. Apparently, real ales with a higher alcohol content than the usual 3%-4.5% are experiencing significant growth in the UK markets. It is this trend which has encouraged Halewood to launch its own offering.

A participant on the All Things Ginger forum is asking for information about Old English Ginger Wine from Rock & Rye Sales in Scarborough, Ontario. It seems that this company no longer exists as it is proving very difficult to find anything on Google. I had a look and, sure enough, it is difficult to find any information. But I did find Rock & Rye Beverages from Toronto, Ontario. This didn't mean much to me until I discovered that Scarborough is now a suburb of Toronto. Is it the same company? I'm intrigued now. Any help would be appreciated.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Chinese Ginger Varieties, New Fijian Factory & Ginger Ale Tax

Loose ginger in the fresh produce section of UK supermarkets always seem to come from China. Disappointingly for me, the labels on the packaging give no information as to the variety. It is quite likely that what I am seeing could well be either Weifang ginger or Laiwu ginger. Both of these varieties, which are highly regarded and sought after, come from central Shandong Province. Weifang ginger is the thicker of the two but I couldn't identify either of them on the basis of just seeing one.

I've often been puzzled as to why ginger ale and non-alcoholic ginger beer are taxed. Here in the UK they are both subject to value-added tax (VAT) which is a form of sales tax. I'm also annoyed that alcoholic ginger beer is taxed but that is another story. But it appears that these beverages have been taxed for many years. During the First World War the US government enacted the War Revenue Act as a way of raising extra money and encouraging thrift. This imposed a tax on soft drinks which unfortunately included ginger ale. In typical tax raising fashion, the Act was not repealed or superceded once the war had ended. Ginger ale has been taxed at State level in many parts of the USA ever since for many different reasons. In 1927, California suggested a tax to support education. Some states levy a tax as a way of tackling the obesity problem. And last year, Pittsburgh proposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (including ginger ale) to fund the pension scheme for the city's employees. It does seem rather unfair to group the healthy properties of some ginger ales with, say, fat-laden doughnuts.

Incidentally, I've been looking at the UK's VAT regulations to see how they affect various ginger products. Gingerbread slabs are zero-rated but a gingerbread man decorated with chocolate is taxed at the standard rate 'unless the chocolate content amounts to no more than a couple of dots for the eyes'. You couldn't make it up.

The New Sabah Times reported that ginger farmers in the state of Sabah in Malaysia have been offered a guaranteed market for part of their crop. Participating farmers in the valley district of Tambunan have signed a sale and purchase agreement with the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) for up to 30 tonnes of this season's harvest. FAMA will also be responsible for providing training in crop management and marketing. FAMA is a marketing agency established by the Malaysian government and operated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) ran a feature on Kaiming Qiu, a Chinese businessman, who arrived in Fiji fifteen years ago as an architectural engineer on a construction project. Once the project had finished, Qiu decided to stay on in Fiji and moved into farming. He has now just opened a FJ$0.5 million ginger processing facility which will produce powdered, crystallised and syruped ginger for the export market. This venture is part of the revival of the Fijian ginger industry which was devasted in the 1990s by a nematode infestation. The revival is being aided by the use of disease-free ginger 'seeds' through the EU-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project in collaboration with the Fijian Department of Agriculture.

I've always assumed that Victorian ginger beer was an alcoholic beverage as this was the only way for people to drink poor quality water. But I couldn't understand how children could drink it as well. I've now found out that the UK Excise Tax Regulations (1855) stated that ginger beer could not have an alcohol content greater than two per cent. It was this requirement which made the drink popular with children.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Salted Ginger, Monsoon Season, Value-Adding, Intercropping & Virility

Last Tuesday was the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting when Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. The Times of India reported that Muslims in the union territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of both Punjab and Haryana, will start each day with a breakfast of dates or salted ginger. I can understand someone eating ginger for breakfast but I'm puzzled by the addition of salt. Maybe it's just a difference in taste but I could never contemplate my Western palate having bacon for breakfast and not being able to drink until sunset.

Still in India, the Hindustan Times had an article on the best food to eat during the monsoon season. It recommends steamed and hot dishes as the best way to overcome the health risks caused by low sunlight levels and excessive dampness and moisture in the air (sounds a bit like the UK for most of the year). The article also recommends the inclusion of a number of herbs, including ginger, for their anti-microbial qualities.

Last week The Miami Herald reported on one of the speakers at the Jamaica USA Chamber of Commerce’s annual Movers and Shakers breakfast at Jungle Island. Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s new minister of industry, investment and commerce, said that Jamaican farmers need to convert their crops into value-added products. As an example, he said that raw ginger needs to be processed into higher value ginger oil and ginger tea. He then went on to say that these value-added products should be marketed at the millions of visitors who come to Jamaica each year. Sounds like an excellent business idea.

An increasingly popular and profitable crop in India is rubber. Unfortunately it can take a minimum of seven years before a newly planted rubber plantation can start providing a return. To provide a valuable income during a plantation's immature years, a farmer will intercrop with turmeric and ginger. However, intercropping is only viable for three to four years before the newly emerging rubber tree foliage becomes to dense. But still well worth doing.

It is not difficult to stumble across something different and unusual on the Web. The other day I found a website for can collectors. The Can Museum is an "international collaboration of beverage cans for the enjoyment of everyone around the world". When I searched for "ginger" I was presented with 360 cans ranging from well-known brands such as Schweppes and Canada Dry to brands I've never heard of such as Hyde Park and Cott. Have a look and take a trip down memory lane.

Scientific American posted an article on its blog about how Kenyans are eating White's ginger out of existence. The herb (Mondia whitei) is not a member of the ginger family but has roots similar in appearance to ginger rhizomes. It is popular in Africa because it is believed to have virility enhancing properties. It is so popular, in fact, that it is now very difficult to find in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service believes that companies in Florida and China are producing the herb to satisfy the growing demand. These companies may not have the market to themselves though. To protect its dwindling rain forests, the Kenyan government has started the Kakamega Environmental Education Programme. Part of this project involves the planting of the Prunus africanus tree intercropped with White's ginger. Each tree will provide support for the slow growing vines produced by the herbs. White's ginger used to be abundant in the Kakamega Forest so its re-introduction is welcome but one feels that the project needs to be protected to prevent theft. So this story could have a happy ending. A bio-friendly and commercially beneficial project. Perfect!