A brief overview of the ginger industry in nigeria

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Highlights of a Presentation at the International Ginger Business Development and Investment Summit; organized by TAK Integrated Agriculture Solutions Limited (TAK-IASL); in collaboration with the Ginger Growers Association and Ginger Off-takers Association under the theme: “The Development of Ginger Value Chain in Nigeria”; at Hotel Seventeen, Lafia Road, City Centre, Kaduna-Nigeria; Tuesday 25thJuly, 2017.


Banake E. Sambo (Ph.D)

Faculty of Agriculture, Federal University Wukari, Taraba State – Nigeria.

Brief History of Ginger Cultivation in Nigeria – The Journey: Where is this industry coming from?

  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe.) was one of the earliest oriental spices known to Europe. The crop was introduced by the Portuguese to West Africa and then to other parts of the tropics in the 16th century – these included the West African sub-region and Nigeria.

  • Since its introduction into Nigeria, it has become an established crop among the people of the Southern part of Kaduna State – an incontrovertible fact.

  • Indeed, Southern Kaduna had come to be known as the traditional “home of ginger production” in Nigeria.

  • Though ginger had for long been grown in Southern Kaduna for domestic purposes, it is on record that its production was vigorously started around 1927.

  • Before then, it had been grown domestically in small quantities a backyard crop.

  • It might interest you to note that, the very first shipment of ginger (5 tons) for export went out from a village in Southern Kaduna called Gantan in 1928/ 29.

  • And what was the over-riding interest then? Because the colonial government carried out an investigation to find a crop that would generate internal trade and income for the populace of the present southern part of Kaduna state to enable them pay taxes.

  • So, by 1966 Nigeria was recorded to have become the second largest World exporter of ginger after China.

  • Thereafter, exports fell due to the Nigerian civil war.

  • But, more than this, export trade of ginger was adduced to have declined due to lack of attention given to the crop by the Nigerian government as a result of the surplus trade receipts from the oil boom and to the unattractive prices it got in the international market (Meadows, 1988) .

  • Thus, Nigeria’s position in the export trade was taken by better placed competitors like India.

  • Lest we forget, in this period, production was not due to any significant governmental or private sector intervention aimed at improving output capacities of the resource poor and low technology producers.

  • That is why ginger yields in Nigeria were indeed extremely low, as surveys showed that ginger yields averaged between 2 – 5t ha-1.

  • So, it can be safely concluded that, in spite of the long history of ginger cultivation by the people of Southern Kaduna State, coupled with the great potential of the crop as a major export commodity, quantitative and qualitative information on various aspects of its cultivation and trade, and its entire value chain, was not readily available.

  • What this means, is that, the people were simply growing this important crop – ginger, based on the age old/ traditional know-how and/ or methods of cultivation – passed or inherited from one generation of their fore-fathers to the other.

The Present State of Ginger Production in Nigeria: How far have fared? Are we any better?

  • Hitherto, the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria (Horticultural Programme), had the mandate to conduct research into aspects of ginger production amongst others.

  • But, in the recent past, in spite of the fact that this crop – ginger - had found a traditional home among the people of the southern part of Kaduna, located at the backyard of the Ahmadu Bello University, Kaduna State, Nigeria; ginger research into aspects of its production, processing and marketing/ trade/ export, storage etcetera; has attracted little focus from both the host University and the State Government.

  • Candidly, I opine that much more could have been done and achieved.

  • In this respect, it is my sincere hope that the Kaduna State University-KASSU – with Faculty of Agriculture cited at Kafanchan – the home area of ginger – would fare much better.

  • But, they also have to be constructively engaged by the stakeholders (i.e. the ginger producers and others involved across the value chain system). That is, if they have not yet been strategically partnered into a mutually beneficial focus on ginger research and development. Then it is my believe that this summit will avail both parties (the stake holders and KASSU) the opportunity to sit on a round table discussion on the role KASSU will play in the development of the ginger industry. This can only be the major community service KASSU can render to its host community.

  • My earlier statement should not be implied to mean that Ahmadu Bello University has not done much. It is simply a wake-up call - that there is much more work to be done to meet up, in view of the enormous challenge and potentials of ginger.

  • At this juncture, it is only honorable and logical to cease on this rare opportunity to accord credit to the former Governor in the second Republic, People’s Redemption Party (PRP) Government of Kaduna State, led by Alh. Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, for possessing the singular vision of establishing the (now moribund) Kachia Ginger Processing Industry; in the 1980’s.

  • It is worthy to note that at its inception, it is reported to have provided employment to over 400 staff; majority of whom came from the local communities – that is, in addition to the over 30, 000 opportunity it gave to many more farmers (to earn a living) in its out-grower schemes and indirect labor engagement on ginger farms.

  • The Kachia ginger factory produced 80 tonnes of oleoresin, four tonnes of oil and 100 tonnes of powder annually as at 2000, but it closed down  a few years after.

  • Similarly, in the 1990’s, an illustrious son of the area, Gen. Yunana Nom (Rtd.), established the Ginger Processing Industry (Belphins Nigeria Ltd.) in Kafanchan, Southern Kaduna State, Nigeria. The factory was designed specifically to produce ginger oleoresin - a dark brown oily viscous liquid extracted from split-dried ginger using ethanol as the main solvent. The installed capacity of the plant is one metric tonne of split-dried ginger per hour; yielding between 40 to 50kg of oleoresin.

  • The factory today is a shadow of itself; having not been spared by the harsh business environment and economic reality.

  • It is reported that by 1982, the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, with a grant from the Nigerian Groundnut Board, embarked on ginger research work; which brought to the rainforest area where the plant was found to do equally well.

  • And to enhance domestic production and marketing of ginger in Nigeria, the Federal government, in recognition of the vital role of ginger to the national economy and its importance as a source of raw material and foreign exchange, mandated the Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi, (FIIRO) to undertake research into the ginger industry.

  • Now, with the discovery that ginger could perform well in the rainforest region of Nigeria, interest in ginger research and production was kindled – from shores far from its traditional home in Nigeria.

  • Accordingly, trials by the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, has established that good quality rhizomes could be grown in the southern (rainforest) regions of the country, further reinforcing ginger’s potential as a major export crop.

  • As a matter of fact, these agencies have tried to fill the gap (created by A.B.U.); enriched and contributed their quota to the growth and development of the ginger industry in Nigeria.

  • Today, ginger is commonly grown in these areas comprising: Kafanchan, Kagoro, Kachia, Zonkwa, Jaba, and Kubacha of Kaduna State, Nigeria among others and has remained the most important ginger growing area in the country. Indeed, without over glorification, these areas hitherto referred to as the traditional home of ginger production, had placed Nigeria on the world map as one of the major producers of ginger.

  • In addition, ginger is reportedly produced in six states of the Federation namely: Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue, Niger and Gombe with Kaduna as the major producer.

  • Nigeria's production in 2005 was estimated at 110,000 metric tons (FAO). By 2012, Nigeria produced 156,000 MT of ginger, accounting for 7% in the world and ranking 4th globally. Out of this, 10% is reported to be locally consumed as fresh ginger while 90% is dried primarily for the export markets.

  • Today, it is reported that Nigeria is the third largest exporter of ginger in the world after China and India. In the Nigerian market ginger is well known and on high demand even though it is expensive.

  • A large percentage of the ginger is exported to China, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, France, United States of America, Russia, Saudi Arabia Chad, Sudan and Ghana, among others.

  • While the remaining is sold mainly in the northern states; especially to Sokoto, Borno, Kebbi, Kano and Zamfara states among states.

  • The quality of the Nigeria Ginger is reportedly being among the best in the world and has contributed to/ and is the reason for the increased demand.

  • It is reported that the export free-on-board price of ginger ranges from USD (2,250/MT – 2600/MT) depending on the type and form in which the ginger is packaged and also the negotiation made with the buyers.

  • The local price of dry split ginger delivered to Lagos from Kafanchan in Kaduna state varies from N170, 000.00 and N200, 000.00. At a delivery price of about 200,000/MT in Lagos, the total cost of exporting 20MT of ginger is estimated at about N4, 202,980.00.

  • But at a peak, it is reported that the local price of dry split Ginger from Kaduna state could vary from 600,000 - N700, 000 (updated Jan., 2017).

  • Traditionally, ginger is mostly sun dried in production centers, and it is often under dried in order to meet supply schedule, as a result it is often found to be molded after shipment, and the color of the dried and powdered ginger is sometimes dull with musty smell.

  • Dried ginger is usually presented in a split or sliced form. Splitting is said to be preferred to slicing, as slicing loses more flavor, but the sliced are easier to grind and this is the predominant form of dried ginger currently in the market.

  • Split dry ginger for export to Europe should meet the quality parameter as given below; though this could vary according to the standards of the importing country:
    Total Ash (% w/w) max(ISO 928), 8:00 a; Acid Insoluble Ash (% w/w) max (ISO 930), 2 b; Moisture (% w/w) max (ISO 939), 12 a; Volatile Oil (v/w) min(ISO 6571) 1.5 a; Extraneous Matter and Foreign Matter should not exceed 1% and 2%, respectively; Should be free from live and/or dead insects, insect fragments and rodent contamination visible to the naked eye (corrected if necessary for abnormal vision); Microbiology - Salmonella must be absent in (at least) 25 g of material; Yeast and mold: 105/g (target), absolute maximum: 106 /g. E.Coli: 102/g (target), absolute: 103/g.

The Challenge of Ginger Production in Nigeria

Ginger production is constrained by a multiplicity of problems key amongst which are:

  1. Lack of Improved (High Yielding) Varieties: Lack of wide germ pool (initially, only two main varieties: Local (Black ginger) – “Yatsun Biri” and Foreign (Yellow ginger) –“Tafin Giwa”). There is said to some other introduced varieties called “Foreign”.

  2. High Labor Demand/ Drudgery: Ginger cultivation is labor intensive; using family members or hired labor.

  3. High Seed Rate and Cost: High quantity and cost of planting materials (for instance, it is estimated that about 2,500kg of setts is required ha-1). Incidentally for ginger the seeds/ rhizome setts are equally the consumable and the profitable (trade) commodity.

  4. High Cost of Inputs: Fertilizer-Both organic and inorganic fertilizers can be used: Chemicals- Herbicides and Insecticides for weeds, insect/ pests and disease control are used. Aside the high cost of these inputs, there is the rampant cases of serious adulteration.

  5. Lack of Mechanization of Farm Operations: Production is still largely done using traditional crude implements as the hoe. The farmers need modern farm implements. Lack of tractors and other machines for laborious land preparations and harvesting operations limits the hecterage of land put under cultivation.

  6. Lack of Modern Processing Equipment: Farmers lack modern processing machines –washing, peeling, splitting, drying kilns etc. For instance, farmers split harvested ginger rhizomes manually with local knives.

  7. Infrastructural Deficits: Lack of and/ or poor access motor-able road networks; improved means of transportation to major markets; epileptic power/ electricity supply; Water for easy movement of goods and services etc.

  8. Lack of Industrialization: Need for establishment of modern ginger processing and manufacturing companies.

  9. Inefficient Marketing/ pricing: Inefficient Marketing/ pricing: The industry lacks well defined marketing channels. Today, data on production and trade is not readily available. Even the then Nigerian Groundnut Board (before it was scrapped) was not able to buy ginger directly from the farmers (since the 1980’s) because of poor prices. Consequently, farmers are left at the mercy of (and are surcharged by) middle men.

  10. Unfavorable Trade Terms: The terms of trade are skewed in such a way that they mostly favor the importing country.

  11. Poor Storage Facilities: Lack of modern storage facilities.

  12. Poor Quality of Produce for Export: Even though, the Nigerian ginger is pride to be of very high quality, it most times, have difficulty in meeting up with the quality standards of importing countries largely because, the produce for export is often infected with fungi, bacteria, insects and contaminants from rodents; during the storage and handling stages.

  13. Lack of/ or Poor Financing Windows: Lack of financial capacities of the predominantly, small holder, resource poor farmers; and farmers inability to access loans from financial institutions due to their stringent and inflexible lending terms; coupled with high interest rates.

  14. Lack of/ or Poor Funding of Research and Development (R&D): Presently, there is paucity of robust research into aspects of production and development of the ginger industry. This is largely in part due to inadequate funding of the sector by government; coupled with the inability to source and attract local or foreign funding by the Research Institutes/ and industrial centers - attributable to a myriad of bottlenecks.

CONCLUSION: ginger - the potentials.

Without a doubt, ginger is an important commercial crop with versatile applications - being a pungent spicy herb and one of the more popular food spices. Dried ginger is used in many different cooking methods - as condiment, ginger is used for flavoring many food products like tomato sauce or ketchup, salad dressings, meat sausages, gravies, pickles, curry dishes and so on. The recipes range from baked products like gingerbread, ginger biscuits, ginger cookies to drinks like ginger tea, ginger beer, ginger ale, dehydrated ginger, ginger candy, etc. Ginger contains about two per cent essential oil – oleoresins; extracted and distilled from rhizomes for various uses in confectionery, soap making, perfumery, beverages, food processing and pharmaceuticals industries etc., aside its medicinal qualities - consequent upon this, ginger can be said to considerably hold great export and industrial potentials for the development of Nigeria. But there is a dialectical relationship between the constraints limiting boosting ginger cultivation and the realization of the full potentials of the industry. On one hand, finding solutions to these constraints, will on the other hand, enhance the realization of its potentials. Definitely, this is the challenge of this summit and stakeholders across the value chain of ginger - here assembled.

  • This is my humble opinionated submission on the elements of our industry in broad overview.

  • Wishing all the participants, here assembled, a wonderful and fruitful ginger summit in this traditional home and capital city of ginger.

  • Indeed, there could have been no better choice of a venue.

But wait a minute. Did you know?

  • Medieval sex manuals and medical schools like University of Salerno (Italy) prescribed ginger for happy life in old age?

  • The aphrodisiac aspect of ginger prompted the Portuguese to increase its cultivation so that they could introduce ginger tonic among the slave camps to increase their population to enhance their profits? (Perveen, S. 2009)

  • Thank you!


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