One of the most popular herbs around the world, Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an intricate part of Sri Lanka cuisine and traditional medicine. Aromatic, pungent and hot with hints of sweetness and zest, ginger grown in Sri Lanka belongs to three varieties;
- Sri Lankan Ginger - With small rhizomes and white fibrous flesh Sri Lankan ginger has a stronger flavour and aroma compared to other varieties which makes it more suitable for use in producing beverages and confectionery like ginger beer, ginger tea, gingerbread and ginger toffee.
- Chinese Ginger - Large rhizomes with pale yellow watery flesh, Chinese Ginger has low notes of flavour and fragrance and is ideal for pickled ginger.
- Rangoon Ginger - Medium-sized rhizomes with multiple fingering mild notes of flavour and fragrance
Mostly used in its fresh form in Sri Lankan cuisines and herbal medicine, ginger is also available as dried ginger powder, pickled fresh ginger, salted ginger, and ginger jaggery. Moreover, fresh ginger is also used in manufacturing gingelly oil and oleoresins, which are widely used in the food and confectionery industry, perfumery industry, and in manufacturing Ayurveda medicine.
The characteristic fragrance and flavour of ginger result from volatile oils primarily consisting of zingerone, shogaols, and gingerols. The presence of a higher amount of Sri Lanka ginger variety is believed to give it the characteristic strong aroma and flavour.
Ginger has long proven to have a curing effect on nausea and has been recently found to have strong anti-diabetic effects by lowering blood sugar. The herb is also a home remedy for indigestions used mostly in Asia.
Cultivation of ginger in Sri Lanka is governed by small and mid-scale farmers with large home gardens and mixed crop plantations, where ginger is grown as an intercrop with coconut, and other fruits. Today, the country has nearly 1900 hectares of ginger cultivation. And Sri Lankan ginger farmers produce an annual turnover of nearly 14,000 tons of which a considerable proportion is used in local industries including food and beverage, Ayurveda and cosmetics.
To maintain a strong price for Sri Lankan ginger in the global market, local ginger farmers operate in farmer collectives, bargaining together with large scale exporters and global buyers of ginger. As most of the bulk ginger stocks exported from wholesale ginger suppliers in Sri Lanka, ginger sourced from Sri Lanka has a zest with a hint of puniness unique to the terroir of the country.
Sri Lanka exports fresh and processed ginger as well as value-added ginger-based products like oil and oleoresins to Germany, United Kingdom, USA, and Japan among others and has a global market share of 0.119% with an export income of USD 737 recorded in 2017.