While NZ basks in summer silly season sun, wintry weather has hit the northern hemisphere with fears of another Swine Flu outbreak. Word on the street is that good old ginger fights the H1N1 virus and prices have now skyrocketed.

Ginger, an important ingredient in global cuisine, has seen increased demand in China during the current influenza season.

The timing of the ginger demand increase has coincided with supply shortages, effecting upward price pressures in a way that has speculators wondering about a potential repeat of the current demand hysteria over garlic. Garlic, also believed to have flu-fighting properties, has seen wholesale prices increase by as much as 1500 per cent since March.

By comparison, retail ginger prices have increased 85 per cent in China in under a year. But a similar price spike may be seen in ginger as Chinese consumers and speculators begin to hoard the spice, commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds and other ailments.
Falling ginger prices over the last three years has contributed to current supply shortages, with many farmers switching to more profitable crops.

Eddie Cheung, CEO of Man Shing Agricultural (MSAH.OB), one of the largest ginger producers in China, is well-positioned with one of the largest stockpiles of ginger in the world. “We have been positioning for an upswing in the price of ginger for some time, based on the low levels of planting over the last two years and the long-term market trend. The health benefits of ginger and the current concerns over swine-flu were not considered in our plan, but they will very likely contribute to further the expected price increases,” he said.

Garlic has seen a similar pattern of shortage and price increases, but prices for garlic have risen astronomically.

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