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Jamaica reviving ginger

Alvin Murray displays a ginger plant in one of the greenhouses operated by the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative in Devon, Manchester.

KINGSTON — Ginger is among the priority crops at the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative tissue culture lab, and with good reason – the Jamaican-grown product is sought-after in international markets, some of which are reportedly willing to pay double what the island spends to import inferior varieties.

The root, according to general manager Alvin Murray, has been central to agriculture in north-east Manchester for hundreds of years, and though its growth has been stymied in recent times, it now has the potential for resurgence.

“Ginger has an (over) 400-year history in this area. The Spaniards brought it to the neighbouring parish of St. Ann and it came over into Manchester, where the rainfall was a little bit better and the soil held more moisture,” he said.

Murray said, however, that the growth of ginger has been seriously affected by disease in the last 20 years, the most common of which was the rhizome rot. Consequently, much of the crop is now imported.


“It is frightening what is happening. When you imagine that Jamaica at one stage was the third-largest producer of ginger in the world… Jamaican ginger is the standard by which other ginger in the world is judged up to today, [yet] we are now importing 70 per cent of every ounce of ginger we use in this country,” he said.

The Christiana Co-op head said Japan is one of the markets willing to pay top dollar for the root, but only about 10 per cent of demand can be met by Jamaican producers.

In former top-ginger-producing areas such as Alston, Moravia and Silent Hill – all within five miles of Christiana – Murray said that there was hardly any ginger being grown now.

“Having solved the Irish potato problem, we want to move to ginger. All the crops that we are concentrating on are crops that the farmers are planting,” said Murray.

He said that roughly 35,000 pieces of disease-free ginger planting materials were delivered to select members of the co-op and they are now growing.

“The reports so far have been mainly good,” said Murray, who added that more farmers should be able to get assistance for the next crop, in February or March next year. (Observer)

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