Bengal’s ginger farmers reap profit as sales shoot during Covid-19 pandemic

Ginger growers in West Bengal’s northern districts are reaping profits even the local economy is hit by the lockdown with people buying more driven by the belief that the plant increases immunity against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

In places like Siliguri, the biggest city in north Bengal, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Cooch Behar and other parts, the sale of ginger has gone up over the last two months, with prices in wholesale and retail markets increasing rapidly.

In the retail markets of Siliguri town, ginger price ranged between Rs 145 and Rs 160 a kg on Monday.

“The price I got from wholesalers in Siliguri regulated market in the last one week ranged between Rs 68 to Rs 70 a kg,” Jabardan Rai, a ginger farmer from Peshok, said.

“The wholesale price in Siliguri would have crossed Rs 100 a kg had there been no restriction on movement of people. The big buyers from Delhi and Mumbai are not coming,” Rai said.

Raju Saha, a retail vegetable seller at Siliguri’s Champasari market, said his sales have more than doubled in recent weeks.

“The demand has been on the rise and will rise further along with the price. At least 60,000 kg is sold every day,” Haridwar Singh, a commission agent at the regulated market, said.

Sunita Agarwal, a homemaker, said she used to buy 400 grams of ginger a month but now she gets 2.5kg of the spice.

“All members of my family are having ginger, lemon and turmeric water twice a day to boost immunity,” Agarwal said.

West Bengal was the third-largest producer of ginger in 2018. Most of the state’s ginger is produced in the hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong which come under the jurisdiction of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA).

The horticulture department of GTA said the annual production in 2019 was 29,400 metric tonnes grown over an area of about 2,000 hectares.

“Darjeeling and Kalimpong hills produce a better quality of ginger and more than 60% are sent to other states,” Mahadev Chhetri, senior scientific officer with the Research and Development Centre for Horticulture, said.

“It is good news that farmers are getting high price at a time when everything has come to a standstill because of the pandemic,” SP Singh, the district horticulture officer, said.

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