By Libby George, Sabrina Valle and Nigel Hunt
KADUNA, Nigeria, Jun 2 (Reuters) – In a flowing cream-colored hijab, Karima M. Imam walks through her fields in the bushland of northern Nigeria as workers harvest a gnarled, brown root that has turned golden since the coup. of COVID: ginger.
“If I had the capital, I would plant more. People are looking for ginger now and there is not enough,” he said at his five-hectare farm outside Kaduna.
As the pandemic rages, people around the world have tried to protect themselves from the disease by turning to so-called halo foods. Although scientists have rejected many claims on social media about how superfoods can fight the virus, their positive role as part of a healthy diet is widely recognized.
As demand for these foods increases, prices for ginger in Nigeria and for acai berries in Brazil have skyrocketed, while exports of Indian turmeric and Chinese garlic have skyrocketed in the last year.
“The demand for ginger is high because they are using it as a medicine,” Imam said, adding that during confinement he boiled ginger with turmeric and garlic to take as a remedy.
Increasingly health conscious consumers have given new impetus to an already buoyant global spice market during the pandemic, increasing investor interest in the sector.
Singapore-based company Olam International completed the purchase of major US spice maker Olde Thompson last month, while Norway’s Orkla acquired a majority stake in Indian spice exporter Eastern Condiments in March.
In Nigeria, a 50-kilo bag of ginger, which can help protect the body from germs and is used as a cold remedy, now sells for 15,000 naira ($ 39), up from 4,000 to 6,000 naira ago. two years.
Continue reading the story
Thanks to the ginger rush, Imam has been able to start building a new house in nearby Millennium City, with a small warehouse attached to store and sell fresh ginger, which is more expensive than when it has been cut and dried.
Prices started to rise last year, but have skyrocketed since January due to demand related to the pandemic, said Florence Edwards, national president of the Nigerian Ginger Producers, Processors and Marketers Association.
He said there had been demand from around the world, citing India, China and Europe among the most popular markets.
“THE PEOPLE WENT CRAZY”
There has also been an increase in demand for açaí, an antioxidant-rich fruit that is considered a superfood. The Amazonian state of Pará, in Brazil, is the largest producing region in the world.
Paulo Lobato, a 52-year-old açaí grower and trader in Pará, has had to withhold part of his harvest for long-time clients as supplies cannot keep up with growing demand.
Prices rose 53% in April compared to the same period last year, to 4.14 reais (78 cents) per kilo, according to state export federation CIN / Fiepa.
“I’ve been working with açaí for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Lobato. “During the pandemic people went crazy.”
Pará is responsible for more than 90% of Brazil’s açaí production, which thrives in its moist soil and constant heat.
The round, purple fruit is produced mainly by families, with cooperatives organizing the harvests. Lobato has 20 families working on his farms, with whom he shares half of the profits.
Açaí is part of the Amazonian culinary tradition, and is consumed as a garnish for fried fish and usually as part of lunch and dinner. However, with increasing export demand, the fruit is increasingly difficult to find in local markets.
“Local consumers are the first to be affected,” explains Florence Serra, from the Brazilian agency for statistics and food supply, Conab. “There are people who go to the street fair and find nothing.”
Like ginger, garlic has components that can help the body defend itself against microorganisms. China exported 2.18 million tonnes of garlic bulbs in 2020, 30% more than the previous year, according to customs data, and its main customers include Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The demand for the spice turmeric, which can help treat conditions related to pain and inflammation, has also received a pandemic boost.
Indian turmeric exports soared 36% in 2020, reaching a record 181,664 tons, and shipments have continued to increase in 2021, with an increase of 10% in the first two months of the year, to 24,813 tons, according to data compiled by the Indian Ministry of Commerce.
“The concept of immunity boosters is very influential these days, not just in India but around the world, and turmeric is a natural immunity booster,” said Abhijeet Banerjee, a spice analyst at the Indian service company. financial Religare.
“The government and Ayurveda practitioners recommend consuming some amount of turmeric on a daily basis for better post-COVID health management,” he said, referring to traditional Indian medicine.
Turmeric futures are up more than 30% so far in 2021 and hit a five-year high of 9,522 Indian rupees ($ 130) per 100 kilograms in March.
Farmers like Ravindra Dere, who grows turmeric on two hectares in the western state of Maharashtra, are happy.
“After many years, we are making a decent profit. I hope prices remain firm,” he said.
(Reporting by Libby George in Kaduna, Nigeria, Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro and Nigel Hunt in London; additional information by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; edited in Spanish by Gabriela Donoso)