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Nurturing Ginger from Field to Global Market

In the lush landscapes of a tribal heartland, ginger takes center stage, cultivated by skilled farmers. This versatile spice not only sustains their livelihoods but also flourishes in soils ideal for a bountiful harvest.

The patient eight-month cultivation of ginger faces challenges—weather variabilities, hybrid seeds, and fertilizers contribute to increased pest infestations and diseases. Giant African Snails, stem borers, bacterial infections, and fungal diseases threaten the robust cultivation of this invaluable spice.

Beyond its significance as a spice, ginger stands as a versatile commercial crop. Its aromatic rhizomes find applications in both the culinary and medicinal realms. From dried ginger spice to crystallized forms, ginger is a perennial plant often grown annually for spice harvesting. Thriving in partial shade, it seamlessly integrates as an intercrop in various plantations.

India boasts several ginger cultivars, each named after its specific growing region. Indigenous varieties coexist with exotic cultivars, adding diversity to the cultivation landscape. Asia, particularly India, contributes 40% to the global ginger production, solidifying ginger’s status as an excellent spice crop.

Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger Tea and Ginger Slices
Ginger Tea and Ginger Slices

Ginger transcends its culinary role, offering a myriad of health benefits. Ancient cultures have utilized it as a digestive aid for millennia. Rich in chromium, magnesium, and zinc, ginger enhances blood flow and acts as a natural remedy for various ailments.

In an era where fungal infections resist conventional medicine, ginger emerges as a formidable opponent. Its efficacy against fungal infections adds another layer to its medicinal prowess.

Ginger’s Economic Impact

India, the largest producer and consumer of ginger globally, faces a unique challenge. Despite being a powerhouse in ginger cultivation, a surge in domestic demand coupled with a production dip has turned the nation into a net importer. The spice’s versatility enables its transformation into various products, creating a robust market with diverse applications.

In the food industry, ginger takes on various roles, flavoring products from sauces to sausages. Beyond the kitchen, ginger’s powdered form finds application in herbal medicines and even cosmetics. Ginger oil, extracted through steam distillation, becomes a prized ingredient in various products.

The demand for ginger oil is on a steady rise, presenting a lucrative opportunity for new entrepreneurs. The peculiar taste of ginger adds a distinctive touch, making ginger oil a sought-after commodity. Anticipated to reach a demand of 4,212 tonnes by 2022, the market for ginger oil continues to expand.

Spices in India: Challenges and Opportunities

While ginger shines in the spice realm, the broader spice sector in India faces hurdles. Challenges in marketing, supply chain, and pre-and post-harvest activities hinder its development. Small-scale spice farmers, often impoverished, grapple with the need for guaranteed prices to sustain their commitment to spice production.

Exporters, bridging the gap between farmers and international markets, face their set of challenges. Dealing with small-scale farmers and adhering to quality, social, and environmental standards demands substantial investments in quality management systems and farmer training.

Also read: Rural Livelihoods of Indigenous Communities in Odisha – A Comprehensive Overview

Addressing Losses in Ginger Production

The lack of proper pre-and post-harvest management and the absence of a value chain contribute to significant losses. Identifying weak links and implementing interventions with forward and backward linkage support becomes crucial to reduce wastage and ensure fair remuneration for farmers.

Ginger remains a cornerstone in India’s spice production, constituting a significant portion of the global output. With an average productivity that speaks to its importance in the spice industry, ginger plays a pivotal role in sustaining the livelihoods of farmers.

Essence of Ginger

Ginger, beyond its culinary allure, emerges as a powerhouse in both agriculture and health. Its journey from tribal fields to global markets showcases its versatility, economic impact, and potential for entrepreneurs. As the spice sector faces challenges, ginger stands resilient, offering a beacon of hope and prosperity to those who cultivate it.

In the rich tapestry of Indian spices, ginger weaves a story of resilience, versatility, and economic significance. From tribal landscapes to the global market, ginger’s journey transcends its role as a spice, embodying a fusion of tradition and opportunity.

Package of Practices for Cultivation of Ginger


Soil Management

  1. Soil Type: Optimal ginger cultivation requires a deep, well-drained, friable, loamy soil rich in humus.
  2. Soil pH: Ginger does not thrive well in alkaline soil.
  3. Crop Rotation: It is advisable not to cultivate ginger in the same field consecutively to prevent soil exhaustion.

Climate Conditions

  1. Climate Requirement: Ginger is a tropical crop, thriving in warm and humid climates.
  2. Rainfall: Suitable areas receive an annual rainfall between 125 to 250 cm.
  3. Altitude: Can be cultivated up to 1500 meters above mean sea level.
  4. Rhizome Development: A cool and dry climate is conducive to optimal rhizome development.
  5. Moisture Requirement: Ginger is a shade-loving plant and requires ample moisture for normal growth.


Several cultivars exist, classified based on specific traits:

  • High Yielding Types: Maran, Karakkal, Rio de Janeiro, Mahim.
  • Less Fiber Content: Jamaica, Bangkok, China, Thingpuri.
  • High Oleoresin: Emad Chemed, China, Karuppamadi, Rio de Janeiro.
  • High Dry Ginger Recovery: Karakkal, Nadia, Maran, Tura.
  • High Volatile Oil: Sleeva local, Narasapattam, Emad, Chemad.

Land Preparation

  • Plough the land twice (crosswise) in summer (March-April) to a depth of 15 to 22 cm.
  • Crush exposed clods with Norwegian harrow.
  • Apply 15 tons of FYM/ha before the last harrowing.
  • For rainfed crops, create raised beds of 1 m width with a spacing of 30 cm between beds.

Propagation and Planting

  • Propagate using portions of mother rhizomes (sets) with 2-3 buds each.
  • Planting is done in shallow pits or on ridges based on the type of cultivation (rainfed or irrigated).
  • Ensure the tip of eye buds faces upwards during planting.
  • Plant rhizomes at a depth of 5 cm.

Manures and Fertilizers

  • Apply 15 tons of FYM/ha during preparatory tillage.
  • Provide nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P2O5), and potassium (K2O) at different stages of the crop cycle.


  • First light irrigation immediately after planting.
  • Subsequent irrigations at 10-day intervals, totaling 16-18 irrigations.
  • Water requirement is 90-100 ha cm.

Inter Culturing

  • Mulching is recommended for rainfed crops to prevent weed growth and maintain soil temperature.
  • Provide shading using seeds of cluster bean, pigeon pea, or castor in irrigation channels.


  • Harvest green ginger 210-215 days after planting.
  • For curing purposes, harvest 245-260 days after planting when leaves yellow and pseudo stem begins to dry.
  • Lift rhizomes using a digging fork or kudali.

Diseases and Pests Management

  • Common diseases include bacterial wilt, soft rot, dry rot, and leaf spot/blight.
  • Insects such as white grub and shoot borer can also affect ginger crops.
  • Integrated pest and disease management include field hygiene, good quality rhizome selection, hot water treatment, and the use of biocontrol agents.


  • Green ginger yield: 10-15 tons/ha.
  • Cured ginger yield: 15-20% of fresh produce.

Improved Varieties

  • Varada, Mahima, Rejatha, Suprabha, Sabarimala, Kozhikkalan, Kakakalan, Silent valley, Rio-de-Janeiro, and others.

Implementing these recommended practices for ginger cultivation can enhance yield, minimize disease and pest incidence, and ensure sustainable production for farmers.

General Problems in the Indian Spice Industry

Ginger and bowl with ginger powder on black smoky background
Ginger and bowl with ginger powder

Low Productivity

  • Challenge: Low productivity in the spice sector affects competitiveness in international markets.
  • Impact: Hindrance to market competitiveness and reduced income for producers.

Poor Product Quality

  • Challenge: Inadequate infrastructure for cleaning, processing, storage, and packing results in poor product quality.
  • Impact: Hampers price realization by producers, affecting overall industry reputation.
  1. Challenge: Lack of comprehensive national standards and loopholes in existing regulations.
  2. Impact: Affects compliance with SPS measures, particularly in the context of pesticide residues.

Disappearance of Indigenous Varieties

  1. Challenge: Rapid disappearance of indigenous spice varieties due to mixing of planting material.
  2. Impact: Loss of genetic purity and biodiversity, potentially affecting long-term sustainability.

Poor Post-harvest Handling

  1. Challenge: Lack of scientific post-harvest handling practices, including drying, curing, and packing.
  2. Impact: Contamination issues and diminishing natural comparative advantages.

Insufficient Mechanization

  1. Challenge: Inadequate value addition at the primary processing level.
  2. Impact: Lesser returns for farmers and laborers, limiting overall income.


  1. Challenge: Stiff competition from other spice-producing countries with surplus supply.
  2. Impact: Price pressure due to oversupply in the global market.

Rejection of Export Materials

  1. Challenge: Dependence on chemicals leading to pesticide residues beyond acceptable limits.
  2. Impact: Rejection of spice consignments, especially from cardamom, chili, and ginger farmers.

Agricultural Extension Challenges

  1. Challenge: Lack of market-oriented agricultural extension services.
  2. Impact: Limited market information and failure to recognize indigenous methods for a competitive edge.

Absence of Crop Insurance

  • Challenge: Small and marginal growers lack crop insurance.
  • Impact: Unprecedented natural calamities lead to crises, exacerbated by limited technical know-how.

Innovative Practices Introduced

  • Decomposed Cow Dung: Increased use of decomposed cow dung to enhance microbial activity and reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers.
  • Organic Preparation: Treatment of decomposed cow dung with organic fungicide and bactericide to promote soil health.
  • Intercropping with Trellis Method: Introduction of trellis intercropping with flat beans to avoid weed growth and utilize shade-loving nature of ginger.
  • Continuous Trench Around Perimeter: Creation of a continuous trench around the plot to prevent soil erosion and collection of organic waste for manure.
  • Application of Organic Fertilizer: Preparation and application of organic fertilizer using cow dung, cow urine, forest leaves, and other resources for pest control and soil enrichment.
Ravi S. Behera
Ravi S. Behera
Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera, PGDAEM, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is an independent freelance Consultant and Author based in Bhubaneswar. He is an Honorary Advisor to grassroots Voluntary Organizations on Food Security, Forest and Environment, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Social Development issues. Ravi has lived and worked in various states of India and was associated with international donors and NGOs over the last twenty three years including ActionAid, DanChurchAid, Embassy of Sweden/Sida, Aide et Action, Sightsavers, UNICEF, Agragamee, DAPTA and Practical Action. He has a keen interest in indigenous communities and food policy issues.

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