When farmers in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna dig up ginger from their farmlands, they do so with an expectation that it will be worth their duel with the soil below and the scorching sun above. And it usually is. The stocky rhizome helps put food on the tables of thousands across the state and elsewhere in the country.
Kaduna’s army of smallholder farmers is helping to maintain Nigeria’s place among the league of ginger producing nations. They, along with others in states like Nasarawa and Benue, have propelled Nigeria to second place in that collection of countries. Data from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that 522,000 tonnes of the produce was harvested from Nigeria’s farmlands in 2016. It’s surpassed by India alone, with an annual output of well over 1 million tonnes.
The crop regularly features on the list of Nigeria’s top agricultural exports, with several tonnes of the crop shipped out through the southern ports every month. They’re also transported on land to neighbouring African countries, including Chad and Ghana. The gains from the trade are said to be fairly substantial; Nigeria is reported to have grossed over $30 million from the sale of ginger on the international markets.
Given these accomplishments, you’ll probably be a bit surprised that ginger hasn’t always been grown in Nigeria. In fact, it only began to be cultivated in this region in 1927, when it was first grown in Zaria. From that time, its commercial appeal and cultivation area has expanded significantly.
If you ever wanted proof of the success the once alien ginger has achieved in these parts, look no further than its integration into our local cuisines. It’s used as an ingredient in many local dishes, including soups and stews, as well as part source material for an anticarcinogenic drink. Beyond Nigeria’s borders, its flours and flavours are mixed into biscuits, cakes, salad and even medicines.
Besides Kaduna, states such as Bauchi, Gombe and Nasarawa also grow the crop at an appreciable scale. It typically matures about six months after it’s planted. After this, it’s either sold fresh or dried. There’s also the option of reducing it to powder– one of the forms in which it’s usually exported.
Nigeria’s international ginger trade has much room to grow. The country is the third biggest developing country supplier of dried ginger to Europe, with chief destinations for the product on that continent being Germany and the Netherlands. Outside of Europe, Nigerian ginger finds ready buyers in the UAE, as well as in India.
If you’re considering exorting ginger yourself, you’d be pleased to know that there are new markets opening up all the time. The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) says that Nigeria could be adding $20 million to its gains from ginger exports by 2021. These extra revenues should come from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Japan and Bangladesh, among others. You may want to ship your ginger to these places if you’re looking for the market’s ‘untapped potential’.
Exporting Dried Ginger to Europe –Centre for the Promotion of Imports (CBI), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands.
Ginger: Promising Markets -Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC)