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Ginger: The Spicy Money-Maker

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Until recently, ginger (entangawuzi) was not a money-making crop. However, this has changed drastically. There are several reasons why ginger has become a money-maker.

One of them is the fact that on top of being used as a beverage for soft drinks, neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda also import it. Ginger is the main ingredient in some beverages.

During the off season, a kilogramme of ginger costs between sh8,000 and sh10,000 especially on the export market. In Uganda, most of the ginger is grown in Mpigi and Butambala districts. However, ginger is grown in any other parts of the country such as Kasese, Kiboga, Busoga and most of northern Uganda.

Favourable soil

According to A Farmers’ manual in Uganda by Walusimbi Baagala 2011’, ginger’s scientific name is Zingiber Officinale and other crops in the ginger family include Curcumalonga or Turmeric (locally called ebinzaali).

Baagala says ginger can grow in a variety of soils that have good drainage and rich in phosphoric nutrients. Deep loam soils are the best for the growing of the crop. These soils can be found in most parts of the country, save for Karamoja. However, clay soils, sandy soils and stony soils must be avoided.

Preparation of the field

Ginger needs a well-prepared field where the soils have been dug and softened such that when the crop sprouts, it easily breaks through. You should dig the holes at least three weeks in advance.

Moses Sserunjogi, a ginger farmer in Busunju, says the holes should be at least 1 x1 feet.

“The holes are that wide because ginger expands as it grows in the ground. A larger hole covered with soft soil makes it easier for this process,” he says.

Weeding must be regular. Depending on the presence of weeds, remove them at least twice every week. Weeding is done by hand not hoes. Hoes destroy the rhizomes.

Fertilisation

Coffee husks are good fertilisers for the ginger crop. Coffee husks help the soil retain the required moisture and fertility. An acre can take about three to six lorries of four tonnes each. The husks can be applied at least two weeks before planting. They are spread out evenly in the whole field and then covered with soils.

Also phosphate is good for fertilising; an acre requires a supply of 50kg. The 50kg bag costs between sh130,000 and sh150,000. These are mixed in the soils at planting.

Planting the crop

Ginger is propagated by dividing the root stock or rhizomes. Each can be just 2cm long, but it must have a nodule. Rhizomes can be got from ginger seeds and planted 30cm from each other in drills in the field spaced by 60cm.

Harvesting Ginger

takes between six to eight months to mature. This means that there is one season in a year.

Mature crops show yellowing of the leaves and withering. The top part dries off and falls to the ground. It is advisable to leave the crop unharvested for the first year and it sprouts again and is harvested at the second year ensure high yields.

Harvesting is done by uprooting the whole plant. The yields depend on many factors such as fertility of the soils, supply of rains and others. If all goes well, an acre can produce about two to eight tonnes. If a kilogramme is sold at sh8,000 at the field, a single tonne can fetch sh8m.

Ginger can be stored for over six months without going bad. It can also be processed into powder for longer shelf lives. “This is the price during periods of scarcity especially if a farmer targets the lucrative regional export markets,” says John Wasswa, a ginger farmer.

Ginger should be stored in a cool, dry environment with enough aeration, so that it does not attract pests to rot.

Pests and diseases

Root mealy bugs may to attack the crops but not cause serious damage. In other words, ginger is largely resistant to mealy bugs. For the diseases, a fungal infection arising from excessive use of coffee husks during damp weather causes damage to plants.

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