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Ginger prices skyrocket on shrinking supply

With China experiencing one of its colder winters in four decades, ginger production there has been hampered and exports have been severely curtailed, causing prices to jump dramatically.

"The price of ginger is already doubling as of now," Jim Provost, owner of I Love Produce, told The Produce News Feb. 5.

China is the world's largest producer of the root, and the price per 30-pound case, as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was $15-$16 on Feb. 2. "The prices are already up above $20 per case and higher," Mr. Provost said, adding that the numbers have yet to reach a plateau. "I would think $24 to $30 per case average range for Chinese ginger" can be expected.

I Love Produce, headquartered in Kelton, PA, markets ginger, Asian pears and garlic. "Ginger is an important part of our business," Mr. Provost went on to say. "We are one of the largest year-round suppliers of ginger."

Land planted to ginger varies from year to year in China. "There are a lot of farmers in China that grow ginger," Mr. Provost said, adding that production acreage is determined based upon predictions of where the market will be and what can be profitable.

"When the ginger market grows, farmers plant more," he said. "Unfortunately, for the last couple of years, ginger prices have been low."

In China, ginger is harvested in November, and the roots are placed in sand to cure in caves until January. Weather in China has been extremely cold this season, and Mr. Provost said gingerroot is not curing properly as a result.

"Volume is poor. There are going to be some quality issues," he said.

Some news sources have reported that this is China's coldest winter in 40 years, and Mr. Provost said the news is equally chilling for production of other vegetables in the region.

Chinese ginger exports have ground to a halt, and Mr. Provost said the effects will certainly be felt as people prepare for the celebration of Chinese New Year, which starts on Feb. 10.

"There will be a supply gap," he noted.

China accounts for approximately 75 percent of global supplies. According to Mr. Provost, Brazil will finish its ginger season in the next two to three weeks. Weather conditions are also taking a toll on other ginger-production areas.

"Limited supplies are coming from Central America," he said, adding that rainy weather in Hawaii is translating to reduced volume.

Summing the season up, Mr. Provost said that high prices and tight supplies will be the norm until spring. He said I Love Produce is working hard to source ginger to meet its customers' needs.