Friday, April 19, 2013

What happened to the ginger?

The answer begins in China, whose Ginger we do not buy.

Over the last couple of years, China has had huge harvests of Ginger.  The vast quantities kept the prices low which made it hard for the rest of the world's producers to compete.  It also held down the profitability for the Chinese producers. Their plan was to reduce production this year to help them raise their prices, and some farmers had already chosen to plant more profitable crops.

When Ginger is harvested, it is typically cured for one or two months.  This aging and drying process is used to improve the quality, the retention of flavor and the shelf life.  It allows the Ginger to be brought to market over a longer period of time, avoiding a glut and surfeit cycle.  This practice allows us to have access to "fresh" Ginger year round and fosters the illusion that Ginger does not have only seasonal availability.

China experienced unseasonably cold temperatures this past winter which led to a reduction in the size of the expected crop, beyond the amount reduced by fewer plantings.  This cold weather delayed the washing and drying process for months and during this extended storage more of the Ginger was lost to decay.  All of this added stress to the supply of Ginger from other parts of the world.

We are at the end of the Hawaiian harvest.  For the last few weeks we have only been able to obtain about a tenth of our need.  The conventional Brazilian harvest and the organic Peruvian harvest typically arrive in the USA at some point in May.  We don't know exactly when and we don't know how supplies and prices will be affected.  We still don't know when we will see Ginger again, but now you know why.

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