Thursday, 29 November 2012

Swedish Gingerbread, Indian Prices & Ginger Real Ales

I do enjoy watching foreign language dramas with subtitles on TV. My Saturday evenings are not complete without a weekly dose of crime from Italy or France or, as happens most weeks, Scandinavia (The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen & Wallander come to mind). According to The Observer, it is not only Scandinavian drama which is proving popular with the British. The UK shopping delivery service Ocado has launched a Scandinavian Christmas Shop and one of its top sellers is Nyåkers Pepparkakor. This Swedish gingerbread biscuit has seen sales jump by 73% over the last three weeks.

Nyåkers Pepparkakor is the oldest gingerbread biscuit bakery in Sweden. Pepparkakor is the Swedish word for gingerbread. The biscuits have been produced for seventy-odd years and are still made to the original recipe. They are very popular in the USA (and now the UK it seems).

This coming Friday (Nov 30th) and Saturday (Dec 1st) will see the Fall to Winter Fest in Boston. This event, organised by Drink Craft Beer, will feature offerings from 25 New England craft brewers and cider makers (sounds like the CAMRA beer festivals in the UK). The official festival beer is from Peak Organic and has the rather unusual name "Nut Your Average Ginger". This is a harvest brown ale brewed with malt, hops, honey, chestnut puree and Massachusetts-grown ginger from Old Friends Farm.

If you do go to the Fest have a look for a gingerbread stout called Merry Mischief from the Boston Beer Company and a pale ale with honey and ginger called Honey Gingah Pale Ale from the Cody Brewing Company. Let me know your views on these beers.

Old Friends Farm is an organic farm in Amherst, Massachusetts. It grows a ginger variety from the Biker Dude Organic Ginger Farm in Pahoa, Hawaii. Because the climate in the US Northeast is not as good as Hawaii, the ginger is harvested at five to six months. This results in young and tender ginger which is perishable. Fortunately, it can be frozen.

The Hindu Business Line reports that the price of ginger in India is rapidly increasing because demand is exceeding supply now that winter is here. Ginger consumption during winter in India is always high as people attempt to protect themselves from the cold and damp. And demand will continue to exceed supply as many farmers, disappointed with the low prices in recent years, have decided not to grow ginger in the new season. I'm sure that this is a decision they are now bitterly regretting.

When I started reading the article I wondered why India doesn't import ginger to cover the shortfall. According to the article the existing import duty on ginger still makes Indian ginger, already an expensive commodity on the world markets, the cheaper option. So old ginger stock is being released to the local markets.

A standard comparison measure of world commodity prices is the concept of price parity. This benchmark price is calculated by taking an average of prices over a period of time. For example, the USA uses a period of ten years. If we assume that India uses the same period as the USA, its ginger price parity is an average of the price of ginger over the previous ten years. India's current ginger price parity is the highest of all the ginger-producing countries.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hobbit Ginger Beer, Snoop Partnership, Dutch Exports & Tissue Culture

Are you a fan of the Lord of the Rings? Or hobbits? Or Tolkien? If you are and you like your ginger beer then you will be interested in this. The Good George brewery in Waikato has been selected to brew a non-alcoholic ginger beer for the Green Dragon in Hobbiton. But the Green Dragon isn't real, I hear you say. Well, it is now. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy the Green Dragon pub was actually only the front, the rest didn't exist. And during the final instalment it was burned to the ground (I don't remember that!). But the Green Dragon has now been rebuilt as a real pub for the forthcoming The Hobbit film trilogy. Unfortunately, the pub is only open to those on the Hobbiton tour. (Source: Waikato Times).

Gladstone Hall, the former home of Australian ginger beer magnate William Starkey, is now on the market. If you have at least $2.4 million and fancy living in the Sydney suburb of Dulwich Hill, you can find more information here. But I am more interested in the ginger beer itself. Starkey started brewing ginger beer in Sydney in 1838 and became so successful that he eventually had the largest ginger beer factory in the southern hemisphere. I can't seem to find anything else about Starkey's ginger beer. Can anyone help?

The Naples Beach Brewery in south Florida recently received state clearance to commercially produce alcoholic beverages. One of its new beers is a mango ginger Belgian ale. Sounds very American.

A press release has announced details of a partnership between the US rapper Snoop Lion (apparently he is sometimes known as Snoop Dogg) and Reed's Ginger Brew to raise awareness of Snoop's Mind Gardens Project in Jamaica. The project's aim is to establish organic community gardens capable of producing fresh fruit and vegetables for school-aged children. Reed's founder Chris Reed has said that he wants to give something back to Jamaica as his company's successful drinks are based on traditional Jamaican-style ginger beers.

just-food has reported on the rising demand from China for traditional English cheeses including the increasing popular dessert cheeses such as white stilton with mango and ginger. It is quite likely that the ginger in these blended cheeses came from China in the first place.

I've just been reading some interesting statistics from the Centre for the Promotion of Imports, an agency of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and known by the Dutch acronym CBI. In 2010, the Netherlands accounted for 35% of all ginger imports into the EU and was the largest EU importer. Again in 2010, 65% of total ginger exports from the EU came from the Netherlands. Some of these Dutch re-exports contributed 6.8% of total British ginger imports.

So why the Netherlands? Towards the end of the 16th century Dutch traders started dealing in spices from the East. Soon after, the Dutch East India Company was formed and this lasted for nearly two hundred years. By then the Dutch spice trade, including ginger, was so well established that it continues to this day. It may seem incredible but last year the Netherlands was the world's third biggest exporter of ginger behind China and Nigeria.

The idea of the EU exporting ginger sounds strange, doesn't it? How can a region which doesn't grow ginger (or at least not commercially) actually export it? The answer is, I don't know. I can only speculate that it could be some sort of added-value or preferential rate. Can anyone enlighten me?

just-drinks has reported a fall in the losses of Castle Brands, the New York-based spirits and wine group. A contributory factor in this improvement is the rise in sales of Gosling's Stormy Ginger Beer, up 45.5% to 74,959 cases in the last quarter. You can always rely on ginger!

A new ginger breeding facility has just opened in the Malaysian state of Sabah, according to the Borneo Post. It uses in-vitro technology to produce 500 plantlets from one parent ginger plant in a process which takes six months. It is hoped that production of disease-free stock will help Sabah meet its demand for 24,000 kg a month.

A press release on PRWeb has announced the forthcoming launch of a loose leaf ginger tea blend in time for Christmas. The Tea Spot, from Boulder in Colorado, has created a blend featuring smoked black tea from China and ginger tea from Honduras. It sounds like the ideal drink for elevenses.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Ginger Rodent, Maine Farming, Price Rise & Success In Trinidad

Last week, Danny Alexander MP celebrated the launch of Ginger Rodent beer from the Cairngorm Brewery. For those of you who follow British current affairs, that event will probably raise a smile. But for those who don't, let me explain. Danny Alexander is the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a British government cabinet post, and number two to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also has red hair and represents a constituency in the Scottish Highlands. Last year, Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said of Alexander in a conference speech, "Now, many of us in the Labour Party are conservationists and we all love the red squirrel. But there is one ginger rodent which we never want to see again in the Highlands – Danny Alexander."

Commercial ginger growing seems to be moving further north in the US. A recent article in the Portland Phoenix featured the Good Shepherd's Farm in Bremen, Maine, which has just harvested its first ever crop of over 100 lb. I was also surprised to read in the same article about Freedom Farm, Maine's biggest ginger grower, which has harvested about 400 lb. At this latitude the ginger must be harvested young but as I've said before, baby ginger is becoming extremely popular in the US both cooked and raw in salads.

The climate in Maine is classified as Humid Continental Climate which is characterised by humid and warm to hot summers, and cold and snowy winters. This differs quite considerably from more traditional ginger growing regions such as India, Nigeria and Jamaica. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer will again sponsor Christmas programmes on ITV1, ITV2 & STV. The brand will also be running a TV advertising campaign starring the Tickety Boo couple George and Camilla. (Source: The Drum)

Here's an unusual story from Fiji. A septuagenarian former mathematics lecturer ignored advice from the Fijian government and planted ginger on dry sugarcane land in an area of the country not known for growing ginger. And he wasn't just dabbling. Master Dass planted three acres in March 2012 and has now harvested at least five tonnes. Other farmers are now hoping to emulate his success. (Source: The Fiji Times).

According to the Central Statistical Office of the Trinidad & Tobago government, ginger consumption in 2010 far exceeded local production following an increased demand for ginger products. So it was pleasing to see that farmers responded by raising production from 97,000 kg in 2010 to 186,800 kg in 2011 (an incredible 98% increase in just one year). As well as a larger harvest, the price of ginger also fell which must have made local consumers very happy.

We are nearly halfway through the rainy season in southern India. Running from October to December, the region receives a soaking from the Northeast Monsoon with most of the rain falling on one particular state - Tamil Nadu. As you can imagine, under these conditions there are going to be some monsoon-related ailments such as upset stomachs, colds and aching joints. To combat these, locals often resort to traditional herbal medicines. One of these, sukku malli kaapi, is popular in south Tamil Nadu. This is a brew made from dry ginger, coriander and lesser galangal (a member of the ginger family). (Source: The Hindu)

I've read that Indians like to chew a small piece of ginger with a very small pinch of salt to ward off the common cold. I chew a nugget of crystallised ginger each morning (without the salt) and although it hasn't stopped me from just having a cold, it certainly tastes good.

Still in India and the Deccan Herald reports that the price of ginger has increased considerably in the town of Chikmagalur in Karnataka. Last year, ginger fell as low as Rs 300 for a 60 kg bag. Last week, ginger was fetching up to Rs 2,200 a bag and harvesting only started this month. A number of factors have contributed to this rise. Winter in north India increases demand for ginger coffee and ginger tea. Demand also increases with the approach of the festival season. And, finally, there has been a low yield in the neighbouring state of Kerala.

One Indian festival where participants consume ginger food and drink, not exclusively I must add, is Diwali. This "festival of lights", which is about to end, is held across the country.

Here is an interesting article from the St.Louis Post-Dispatch on how a ginger liqueur business started. I must admit that it has given me a few ideas.

The Rutland Herald in Vermont has reported that a new brewery will open later this month. The reason I am interested is that one of the two launch beers from Foley Brothers Brewery will be of the ginger wheat variety.