The picturesque hilly district of Karbi Anglong is one of the leading ginger producing belts of Assam that is fast gaining importance in both the domestic and international markets for its superior quality organic ginger. More than 30 percent of Karbi Anglong district is a dense tropical forest cover on hills and plains. The district is essentially populated with tribes of Karbi, Dimasa, Kuki, Boro, Garo etc. who are heavily invested in agriculture. The indigenous tribes traditionally practise jhum cultivation in the hilly area and the major crops that come under jhum cultivation are maize, cotton, rice, ginger, tapioca, wheat, oil seeds and others.
Ginger is grown as an important cash crop in Singhasan Hills of Karbi Anglong district using the age-old system of jhum and tila. Karbi Anglong area produces the best organic ginger in the world with an average annual production of more than 30,000 tonnes grown by around 10,000 farmers. There are two types of ginger grown in Karbi Anglong namely Nadia and Aizol. Aizol has less fibre and is produced with the sole intention for export while Nadia is more fibrous and preferred for domestic uses. These varieties have high dry rhizome and recovery of oleoresin oil which is the main reason they are in demand among domestic as well as international buyers. Oleoresin, commercially known as ‘Gingerin’ is extracted from dried ginger and finds an importance place in the food industry.
The cultivation of ginger in this region can be traced back to the early 1950s with the fertile soil, unique climatic conditions and dense forest cover proving to be favourable for growing ginger. The production season starts with sowing in March – April and ends in January. The method of cultivation is organic with farmers using a part of the harvest of the previous year as seeds for the present season, no chemicals or fertilizers are used, mulching technique is implemented and indigenous pest control and disease management measures are applied.
The Karbi Anglong ginger was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2014-15 for its unique characteristics. Karbi Anglong is a medium-size rhizome with a yellow skin known for its distinctive pungency and heady aroma and is fibrous in nature with a shelf-life of 9 months. The raw ginger of Karbi Anglong are supplied to different parts of India and exported to the Middle-East, Germany and France. India is the leading ginger producer in the world with the state of Assam itself contributing a massive chunk to the total production.
Organic ginger cultivation is highly labour intensive where farmers and their families go in hordes in the sowing and harvest season often working in each other’s field and settle wage payment in kind. This is an excellent source of income and employment for the tribal families and its true potential is yet to be tapped as there are no value-added products besides a small amount of dried and raw ginger that is sold.
Processing and manufacturing units will go a long way in promoting the world’s best organic ginger as well as bringing in more focus on the indigenous and organic methods of cultivation practised in Karbi Anglong and other parts of the Northeast which produces premium food grains, fruit crops, vegetables and spices.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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