By Erica James-King, Staff Reporter
THE SCIENTIFIC Research Council (SRC) is conducting tests on ginger and turmeric to determine the best farming methods for their use in the neutraceutical industry. A project spearheaded by the SRC will in April see farmers growing ginger and turmeric for the neutraceutical industry. The industry is based extracting nutrients or compounds from plants to be used in medicines or nutritional products.
"We will be experimenting a lot with the reaping of the ginger," said Yvonne Bailey-Shaw, research scientist with the SRC. "We have not yet determined when the actives (compounds with medicinal values) are at their maximum, and so the pilot project will determine that and will also determine when would be the best time to reap."
Ginger has anti-cancer, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as an ingredient in medicines and health foods.
"When it comes to extracting the 'actives' from the ginger and turmeric that needs specialised scientific skills," she said. "The SRC has both the laboratory equipment and personnel for doing that." Ginger and turmeric have never been grown on a commercial scale in Jamaica solely for their medicinal properties, she said. So there will be on-going testing during the pilot project to determine when is the best time to reap those products to get the maximum medicinal benefits from them. "We have been identifying the farmers, who will be setting up the cultivation experimental plots," the scientist said. Ginger cultivation would been started in late February or early March, if it had not been for the drought which many parishes are experiencing.
"We were advised by some farmers to let the drought pass before the cultivation of the crops as this might affect the crops in a negative way," she said. "So instead of our March start up timeline for cultivation, we are opting for April." The SRC intends to provide two farmers in Clarendon and two in St. Catherine with the requirements to produce ginger for the neutraceutical trade and two farmers in each of the two-targeted parishes will also be given the expertise to grow turmeric.
The project, has received $9.6 million in funding from the Organisation of American States and $4.7 million from the Jamaican Government. It will run until December 2005.
Information from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) shows that 85 of the top-selling medicinal plants in the world grow in Jamaica. The PIOJ states that Jamaica has the potential to achieve significant earnings from the US$10 billion annual global health foods market. Data from the PIOJ shows that the global market in medicinal plants was US$75 billion in 2002 and the market is growing by at least seven per cent per year.
Jamaican ginger, turmeric, sugarcane, sarsaparilla, rosemary, pimento and lemon grass have medicinal benefits and could be grown for the creation of by-products such as oils, teas and drinks, flavours, tinctures, aromas and colorants.
But the PIOJ said a successful penetration of the lucrative industry requires access to capital, and investment in research and technology.