Sunday, 30 October 2011

Worried Ginger Farmers, Fijian Investment, Ginger Coffee Launch And Big Hairy Moustache

ABC Wide Bay, the Australian TV and radio station which covers part of Queensland's ginger growing region, had an interesting report on the problems facing farmers as they embark on a new ginger season. Since last year ginger crops in both the Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast areas suffered badly from the fungal rot pythium. Both areas typically produce 80pc of Australia's ginger annual output but last year some growers lost up to 70pc of their crops. These farmers have now planted this year's ginger 'seed' with trepidation and those farmers not affected last year are understandably concerned. I wish the farmers well for the coming months and I'll let you know of their progress.

Still on the subject of Australian ginger, here is an interview from ABC Brisbane with Ron O’Grady, CEO of Buderim Ginger.

I've reported occasionally in the past about the progress being made by the Fijian ginger industry to establish itself on the world stage. The Fiji Times has now told us of a $1 million three-year investment programme launched by the Fijian government to revitalise the ginger industry. It is hoped that the investment will improve the country's export earnings from the current $6.3 million to $9 million a year. Basically, the plan is to develop ginger 'seed' with increased vigour which can be grown throughout the country rather than selected areas as at present. Fiji currently produces more than 2000 tonnes of ginger a year of which nearly 50pc is exported, principally to Australia and Hawaii.

Various African websites reported last week about Nestlé Nigeria's launch of its Nescafé Ginger & Lemon coffee. I've noticed that ginger coffee is very popular in many parts of Africa (and the Middle East as well) but, as I've said before, I don't know why it isn't marketed in Europe and beyond. Back to Nestlé Nigeria and the news that this product is being introduced into the health market because of the "beneficial health properties of ginger and lemon". It's questionable whether a statement like that would be allowed in many countries.

Last week a number of websites, including The Drum, reported the launch of a £2 million advertising campaign for Ginger Joe, the alcoholic ginger beer. Depending on which site you read, I'm not certain whether this launch is the start of the £2 million or whether it is the next stage within an existing £2 million. Whichever it is, it's a lot of money. The centrepiece of the campaign will be Ginger Joe's signature ginger moustache, a brand mark fast becoming readily associated with the product. The moustache features quite prominantly, 78 feet's worth of prominence actually, on a billboard unveiled earlier this month in Shoreditch in London. The giant hairy moustache is overlaid with the message "Thanks for donating to our big hairy poster".

By the time you read this you may well have heard about the new flavour to be added to the range of Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beers. Apparently we will only have to wait until the end of October to find out. The phenomenal onslaught of Crabbie's and the rapid emergence of Ginger Joe is shaping up to be an interesting battle. Although the producers may argue that they are aiming at different markets and demographics, I can't help but think of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and Blur and Oasis.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ginger For Weight Loss, Ancient Greeks, Combating Crime & Bose Variety

Scotland on Sunday reported on a ground-breaking discovery by Scottish scientists which suggests that ginger could, and I must emphasise the word 'could', help you to lose weight. Researchers from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen, in conjunction with the Korea Food Research Institute, found that the body weight of mice increased less when they were given ginger in addition to their normal meals. The scientists stated that to be effective a person would need to consume 25g-50g of ginger a day which, to be honest, is not really feasible. So the scientists believe that a ginger supplement could be the answer. But I must say that this does not mean that you can gorge yourself silly and then pop a pill and feel at ease.

Analysis of amphorae recovered from sunken ships shows that the Ancient Greeks traded in ginger. Scholars have generally assumed that amphorae from 5th-3rd century BC shipwrecks were only used for wine and olive oil. Analysis of DNA trapped in the fabric of the ceramic jars has indicated that the Ancient Greeks traded in a whole range of nuts, spices and herbs including ginger. I have read elsewhere that ginger in the classical world originated in Sri Lanka and Indonesia and became established, according to Pliny, in Arabia. The ginger was apparently transported in pickled form.

The Fiji Times reported on an unusual scheme to combat crime. Officers at a police station in the Nalawa district operate a farming project which aims to demonstrate to people, particularly the young, the benefits of engaging in non-criminal activities. Having just harvested a potato crop, the police officers are now switching to ginger. As I have mentioned before, ginger in Fiji is becoming quite profitable.

The Himalayan reported on the success being enjoyed by ginger farmers in the Makwanpur district in southern Nepal. Around 1,900 farmers have switched to the Bose variety which is commanding such a good price that they have become financially self-reliant. This variety has a very low fibre and moisture content which is much sought-after throughout the country.

A story on highlights the difficulties faced by farmers as they try to earn a living. Over 500 ginger farmers in the town of Nuagarh in the Indian state of Orissa have lost everything because of incessant rains. The farmers, who are unlikely to have insurance, now face an uncertain future as they attempt to seek compensation from the local tehsildar (a taxation officer).

A number of reports have been circulating regarding a new agriculture initiative from the Jamaican government. The minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Robert Montague, has said that the country must reduce its reliance on imports to make up for domestic production problems. The initiative, to be introduced next year to mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, will cover a range of crops including ginger and turmeric. The minister has also said that if imports do not meet Jamaican standards they will not be allowed into the country.

Tributes have been paid over the last week to John Halewood, the founder of Halewood International, who sadly passed away last weekend. The group, famous for its Crabbie's ginger drinks, will remain under the ownership of the Halewood family who will continue with John Halewood's business philosophy and plans.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tanzanian Ginger, Rum And Ginger,Quirky Beer & Nadia Variety

Generally, this blog tends to report on news from the UK, USA, India and China for the simple reason that these countries seem to generate most of the ginger news. Africa hasn't had much of a look in but now I can report on some ginger news in Tanzania. Ippmedia carried a report principally on the financial benefits of the Jatropha plant but it also mentioned a development in the ginger sector. Over 7,000 ginger farmers in the Kilimanjaro region are now reaping the unspecified but presumably financial benefits of joining a cooperative society. In the last five to six years production has more than doubled and the price has increased more than sevenfold.

I thought that 7,000 ginger farmers in one relatively small region sounded rather a lot until I discovered that the majority, if not all, of these farmers are in fact smallholders with plots ranging in size from 0.2 to 1.0 hectares. Most of the ginger, when not used for domestic consumption, is exported to Kenya, Germany and the Netherlands. Recently it was reported that ginger provides 50% of the income for this region so we can see how important it is for many families. Incidentally, the official language of Tanzania is Swahili and the Swahili word for ginger is Tangawizi.

Brooke Bond Taj Mahal has launched a ginger tea to cater for the changing tastes of Indian tea drinkers. This proves that even with the seemingly humble ginger tea there is scope for something different and distinctive. Variety is the spice of life.

I have mentioned Halewood International a number of times in the past as the maker of Crabbie's ginger drinks. You may have the impression that Halewood only makes Crabbie's products but you would be wrong. Although I may be a little bit late with this news but I read the other day that Halewood recently launched a rum-based, ginger flavoured RTD called Lazy Jacks. The drink will be marketed with the strapline "laid-back refreshing ginger tingler". I'd like to thank Halewood for being at the forefront of the UK's ginger renaissance (and no, I'm not brown nosing!).

The Morung Express sang the praises of more than one hundred ginger farming families in one village on the slopes of Mount Paona in the Indian state of Nagaland. It said that the farmers in the village of Punglwa should be recognised for the quality of their ginger and that a rich harvest is anticipated. Twenty thousand kilograms of the Nadia variety have been planted as 'seed' this year with the yield expected to be seven to tenfold. Nadia has a high fibre content and is recommended for dry ginger production. It is also resistant to inclement weather which is quite a useful attribute as Nagaland has a largely monsoon climate.

I do enjoy visiting the website of that eccentric, quirky and zany US brewer - Dogfish Head. The Delaware-based brewery has been described by international beer writer Michael Jackson as "America's most interesting and adventurous small brewery". The brewery itself describes its beers as "off-centred ales for off-centred people", a mantra I quite like. I am particularly interested in two of their beers - Ginger Peach Wheat and Pangaea. The wheat beer has been brewed not only with wheat, malt and hops but also with ginger peach black tea. As the website says, why use just water? Pangaea is a different kettle of fish altogether. This has been brewed with ingredients from every continent: water from Antarctica, basmati rice from Asia, muscavado sugar from Africa, quinoa from South America, yeast from Europe, maize from North America and, finally, crystallised ginger from Australia.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Car Colours For 2012, Call To Re-Establish Jamaican Ginger & Latest Crabbie's Launch

There was good news this week for ginger lovers in New Zealand courtesy of the Otago Daily Times - Monteith’s seasonal Summer Ale is back on the shelves. This bright, gold beer is made with four different malts, a single hop variety, honey and, of course, ginger. My interest in this beer was overshadowed somewhat by the reminder that I live in the UK, a glorious Indian summer has just ended, and winter looms on the horizon.

The Ford Motor Company has just revealed the colours for its forthcoming range of new cars and they include Ginger Ale. This colour will be seen on the new Ford Escape when it is unveiled at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show next month. The Ford blog said that Ginger Ale was selected for its energy and refreshing qualities and went on to describe it as "a classic gold neutral with slight green undertones, it’s found naturally in rocks, minerals and sandy beaches as well as jewellery, gems and textiles". This blog post is a fascinating insight into the work involved in selecting a colour for a particular model. I didn't realise it but Ginger Ale was selected as the Colour of the Year for 2008 by ICI Paints. ICI's Colour Futures Team said at the time that Ginger Ale was the colour of life-sustaining sunshine and described it as "having the ability to convey a mood of warmth, sociability and welcome".

A Jamaican business executive last week issued a call to arms and demanded that his country re-establish itself as a producer of top quality agricultural produce. Dr Keith Amiel, corporate affairs manager at Caribbean Broilers Group, told The Gleaner that Jamaica needs to go back to basics and invest in a new generation of farmers. We all know that the Jamaican ginger industry virtually disappeared in the 1990s through a combination of disease, poor farming and bad management. Dr Amiel highlighted two products which were known worldwide for their use of Jamaican ginger. He mentioned Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Stone's Ginger Wine which originally had the word Jamaica on their labels but have now had it removed because Jamaica could not supply enough. I think that it is fair to say that Jamaican ginger will not appear in these products again but it doesn't mean that new products couldn't be developed. I'm convinced that Jamaican ginger is its own unique selling point.

Never a week goes by without an announcement or item of news from that remarkable ginger drinks company, Crabbie's. One week it will be news of another sponsorship deal, the next week it will be the launch of the latest in the series of witty TV advertising campaigns with George and Camilla. Last week the market was presented with a new member of the Crabbie's family - Crabbie's Spiced Orange. This is a blend of the existing Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer, orange and spices. Apparently, Halewood International, who make Crabbie's, used consumer research which said that orange has the most popular flavour profile. I'd like to suggest that there would be a market for a Spiced Lemon and/or Lime equivalent as well. The ginger and lime combination already works successfully in their nut mix.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Baking At Altitude, Magners On Facebook, Rhino Damage & Ginger Painting

I came across a rather unusual recipe the other day for gingerbread and caramelised apples. What makes it unusual is that it has been adjusted for baking at an altitude of between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. Apparently, the adjustments are required because the lower air pressure affects certain ingredients such as eggs and baking soda. The recipe was published in Summit Daily News, a newspaper covering a number of mountain towns in Summit County, Colorado. I've no idea what it would taste like at sea level.

A groundbreaking event in the world of digital marketing/advertising occurred last Monday when Magners became the first alcohol brand to be sold through Facebook. The new Facebook shop will sell Magners Special gift packs with pear and ginger as one of the flavours. I shall keep an eye on this page and 'F-commerce' in general as this will be an interesting extension to many e-commerce sites.

the drinks business reported on the quandary facing UK retailers. They are unsure whether to categorise alcoholic ginger beer as an ale or RTD. Alcoholic ginger beer is enjoying phenomenal growth in the UK and many manufacturers have said that this fermented drink is aimed at the beer-drinking market. With some of these drinks actually being real ales with added ginger I agree with the majority of retailers who are placing the drink in the ale category.

The Fiji Times reported on a new addition to the ginger-growing community. A mataqali has started this agricultural venture as a means of generating an income to meet church obligations. I'm more than happy to read about new ginger farmers but I was particularly intrigued by the concept of a mataqali. I'm not absolutely certain what it is but after checking Wikipedia ("Culture of Fiji") I think that it is just a sibling branch of a family tree. Maybe someone can help me.

I find it interesting to read about the difficulties some farmers have to overcome when trying to produce a hand of ginger. Problems can range from bad weather to plant viruses to wild animals. I've reported before about the problems Indian farmers face with wild boar, tigers and elephants. The Telegraph has now reported about damage caused by yet another animal - rhinos. In an effort to combat this problem the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 programme has constructed an 8km electric fence along the southern boundary of Manas National Park in the Himalayan foothills. Within this protected area, 15 families from five villages have been encouraged to grow ginger. You can't help but admire these farmers.

And finally, have you ever fancied painting ginger? Have a look at this site where Dr.Tan Ching Yam displays a painting of a piece of ginger, Chinese style. It may take a little while to load, for some reason, but bear with it, it's well worth it.