Government has identified ginger as one of the priority commodities due to its potential for food and income security and providing employment to the local farmers.
As such, the Agriculture Ministry is making concerted efforts in revitalising ginger industry in a bid to increase production and its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The industry which includes both the immature and mature ginger is currently worth $12 million but it is likely to increase in future.
Speaking in Parliament recently the Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu said that Government was making all efforts to make ginger as a major export commodity.
Mr Seruiratu told the members of Parliament that following the access to export to the Australian markets, Government saw ginger as one of the priority crops which had a potential for income and food security and employment for many Fijian farmers.
He said in a bid to increase production Government had increased its budget to $500,000 this year from $300,000 provided in 2014.
“From 2006 – 2011 there was no budget for ginger but I salute the private sectors especially our farmers for not abandoning this crop,” said Mr Seruiratu.
Referring to the production figures in 2013 Fiji produced 10,529 metric tonnes of both immature and mature ginger which was an increase of 3477 tonnes compared to 7052 metric tonnes produced in 2012.
Ginger from Fiji is exported to Australia, New Zealand, European Union, USA and Canada.
He added that from 2009 to 2011 export earnings of the immature ginger was around $6million but it increased significantly to $12million in 2012 and 2013.
“The increase in exports was due to government investment in the industry, a favourable and stable market price for ginger and Fiji’s accomplishment to gain access into the Australian fresh ginger market,” said Mr Seruiratu.
He said securing the Australian market provided Fiji a great opportunity to further broaden its economic base apart from providing more employment opportunities for our farmers.
Mr Seruiratu acknowledged the work done by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) in securing the Australian market.
The Ministry of Agriculture will focus on the quality by adhering to the protocols and pathways already established between Fiji and its trading partners. It will focus on improving farm management as it is critical and goes with quality.
There are currently a total of 717 registered ginger farmers in Fiji, 611 of whom are in the Central Division including areas of Navua, Namosi, Naitasiri, Rewa and Tailevu, 106 farmers are in the Western Division and Ovalau. There are also a few farmers in Ra, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Vanua Levu. These farmers produce ginger for the local and exports markets.
Frespac Ltd and Kaiming Agro Processors Ltd are the two major companies buying the locally grown ginger for export but other few exporters like Sai Foods Ltd are some of the latest companies who are investing into this lucrative industry.
The Managing Director of Kaiming Agro Processing Ltd (KAPL) Calvin Qiu says that there was a short supply of ginger and is urging more farmers to plant ginger for export.
KAPL that produces and exports processed immature ginger has about 300 farmers that supply about 1000 tonnes of ginger every year. Majority of these farmers are from Naitasiri while others are from Serua and Namosi.
Mr Qiu wants more farmers from Serua and Namosi to plant ginger because they are close to the factory and have easy market access.
“We will need 1200 tonnes of immature ginger and 400 tonnes of mature ginger this year,” said Mr Qiu.
KAPL exports crystallized and glazed ginger to USA, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Germany.
“There is good demand for processed Fiji ginger in North America and the European Union as our ginger is of a very high quality, said Mr Qiu adding, “ Fiji ginger had very low heavy metal content and no trace of chemical due to our pristine environment and the traditional farming practices used by the local farmers.”
Agriculture Officer Serua/Namosi Virend Chand said that in 2013 about six acres of ginger was planted on the flatlands under the Ginger Development Program by six farmers.
“However, due to heavy rain in December 2013 and January 2014 there was high risk of Fusarium oxysporium a fungal disease, so the farmers had to harvest immature ginger and could not save any for planting material,” he added.
“This year the farmers are keeping the ginger to mature and will use as planting material for the next ginger planting season. Ginger planting is targeted on the upper Serua and Namosi to avoid flooding,” said Mr Chand.
He said that farmers should treat seeds with hot water soon after harvesting for the control of nematodes and Pythium rots in order to attain pest-free planting materials.