St James, Hanover lead ginger production
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
The western parishes of Hanover and St James, combined, have outdone the rest of Jamaica in the production of ginger for export under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Ginger Expansion Programme, which is aimed at meeting the overseas demand.
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke made this announcement during his address at the Montpelier Agricultural Show in St James on Monday.
"Ginger production has now reached a 25-year record high, thanks to the strategic management of the Ministry (of agriculture) and to the effort of the farmers," Clarke said.
"We are producing this year, the most ginger that we have produced in 25 years. Out of the 1,200 tonnes of ginger that we produced last year, St James and a part of Hanover, nearly produced 400 tonnes out of it. I want to congratulate the farmers in St James and the farmers in the western region," Clarke added.
The minister said the number of ginger farmers had increased from 384 in 2012, to 500, and that the ginger initiative also provides employment for approximately 2,500 people.
"You are on the move. I want you to continue to plant and reap more. And I tell you, our success has been a challenge because our export sector is having problems to deal with that now because of the volume being produced in these parts," he added.
The agriculture ministry intensified its ginger initiative following an investment and trade mission to Birmingham and London in mid-2012, which was organised by Jamaica Promotions (JAMPRO).
Following that mission, Clarke announced in a report to the House of Representatives that there was a significant unmet demand for the spice, and that his ministry would work with local farmers and producers to meet the demand through the Ginger Expansion Programme. He also said growth in Jamaica's export of the spices would "displace existing unauthentic brands that have filled the void in the UK (United Kingdom) market, as our spices are distinctly superior in quality and flavour".
According to a Scientific Research Council (SRC) report titled SRC using technology to develop and sustain local ginger Industry, 40 years ago Jamaica was one of the world's leading exporters of dried ginger, exporting 550,000 kilogramme of the product in 1976. In the 1930s and 1960s, Jamaica was listed as one of the three largest producers of ginger in the world, along with India and Sierra Leone.
Fungal and bacterial diseases
However, due to an attack of fungal and bacterial diseases in the field, this fell to under 50,000 kilograms in 1996. At present, Jamaica is ranked as the world's 23rd-largest producer of ginger behind India and China, which are ranked first and second, respectively.
The SRC also noted that its scientists had implemented the use of invitro micro propagation of ginger and that, as a result, disease-free plantlets have been made available to farmers in various quantities.
A report from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) also noted that the quality of Jamaican peeled, dried ginger has remained the best in the world for many decades, commanding the highest prices. The RADA also noted that the (ginger) industry has the potential to earn US$964,000 and generate J$32 million in income to farmers.
Reports from the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Department of Chemistry note that ginger is thought to have been introduced into Jamaica about 1525. However, by 1547, the export of ginger amounted to more than 1.2 million kilogramme. Prior to 1740, ginger was associated with the parish of St Ann, where it had first been planted by the Spanish. After that, the Christiana region in Manchester, took over when it was recognised that the soil and climatic conditions were especially suitable for the growing of ginger. The UWI noted that in 1980, a survey by the International Trade Centre reported that 1,100 acres of ginger were planted in Jamaica in the central range areas of Clarendon, Manchester and Trelawny.
The UWI said a 10-mile radius around Christiana was identified as the region which grew the finest ginger in the world. The UWI also noted that the chief constraint for production seemed to have been associated with peeling, as this is time consuming and costly, and poses difficulties in recruiting new staff.