Ginger growers in Nigeria reap profit as Covid-19 boosts demand for halo foods
As the coronavirus pandemic rages in many parts of the world, demand for ginger and other plants and spices that boost the immune system are surging, benefiting both growers and exporters in countries like Nigeria.
As demand for health foods rose rapidly, prices for ginger in Nigeria and acai berries in Brazil have leapt while exports of Indian turmeric and Chinese garlic have jumped in the past year, Reuters said in a report.
Like ginger, garlic has components that can help the body fend off bugs, while the spice turmeric can help in the treatment of conditions involving pain and inflammation.
"The demand for ginger is high because they are using it as medicine," Karima M. Imam, a Nigerian ginger grower, told Reuters in her flowing cream hijab.
"If I had the capital, I'd plant more. People are looking for ginger now, and there is not enough," she said at her five hectare farm on the outskirts of Kaduna.
She said that during the lockdown, she boiled ginger with turmeric and garlic to take as a remedy.
As the pandemic rages, people around the world have sought to guard against illness by turning to so-called halo foods. While scientists have dismissed many claims on social media about how superfoods can fend off the virus, their positive role as part of a healthy diet is widely acknowledged.
Increasingly health conscious consumers have given an already buoyant global spice market a further boost during the pandemic, heightening investor interest in the sector.
In Nigeria, a 50 kg bag of ginger, which can help the body ward off germs and is used as a cold remedy, now sells for 15,000 naira ($39), up from 4,000 to 6,000 naira two years ago.
Thanks to the ginger rush, Imam has been able to start building a new house in nearby Millennium City, with a small warehouse attached so she can store and sell fresh ginger, which goes for more than when it has been cut and dried.
Prices began rising last year but since January they have taken off due to pandemic-related demand, said Florence Edwards, national president of the Ginger Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria.
She said there had been demand from all over the world, citing India, China and Europe among popular markets.
Hebile Abu is a businessman in Kaduna. He is the commercial manager for a company that facilities loans, fertilisers and tractors for a cooperative of about 1,500 small farms - and then markets their crops.
He said there is no end to the ginger rush. "However many tonnes you have, they will buy it," he said. "People come for it and they cannot get it."