In the cloud of negative news regarding the failure of Nepali trade, business, and economy, there are a few silver linings, one of them being ginger farming. Nepal has recently displaced Indonesia to become the third largest producer of ginger in the world, behind only India and China. Previously, Nepal had been the fourth largest producer of ginger for several years. The demand for ginger has been rising steadily in the international market because of its varied uses: it is used in Indian and Chinese foods and Ayurvedic medicines, as well as in candies and jellies. Though Nepali ginger products have been facing problems because their grading and cleaning does not meet expected international standards, they are still in demand because the products themselves are of good quality and are grown organically.
Ginger production in eastern Nepal has been able to scale such heights of success because it has been supported by many private and government initiatives.
Among many other products, it was identified by the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy 2010 (NTIS 2010) as having export potential, and in 2012, the government successfully procured Rs100 million in financial support from the World Trade Organization for ginger farming. This aid is expected to help develop a better system for producing and processing ginger, so that Nepali products can compete with standardized products from other countries. On the private side, organizations like Mercy Corps have been helping farmers by creating seed banks, providing seeds, diagnosing the problems in decline of production, providing remedies and teaching methods of seed storage. In March 2012, Nepal Ginger Producers and Traders Association (NGPTA) was also formed by ginger farmers to promote their interests on a national level. As a result, though the productivity of ginger has been fluctuating, production itself has increased by 146 percent in a decade, from 87,909 tons in 2002 to 216,289 tons in 2011. Encouraged by the lucrative prospects of ginger, more and more people are turning towards this money-spinning cash crop, and in the past 10 years, land used for ginger farming has doubled.
The success story of ginger farming is admirable in its own right: it has provided employment to and raised the living standards of many. But it also highlights a broader phenomenon. Right now, while ginger is produced in the hilly districts of Nepal—and is even among the famous “five A’s” that Ilam, a prosperous hilly district in the east, owes its prosperity and fame to—organic local varieties of several other cash crops flourish in various pockets of Nepal: tea in eastern Nepal, coffee in Gulmi, cardamom in Ilam, and apples in Humla, among other locale-specific successes. Some of them find appropriate markets, and some don’t.
After ginger, the government has initiated the procedure for procuring aid from WTO for pashmina, herbs, and other products. Given the same institutional support as ginger, each of these specialties of Nepal has the potential to become a leading producer and improve the lives of farmers, as well as contribute to the national economy. Ginger has been able to thrive despite adverse political situation, which is often blamed for the failure of business initiatives. Individual examples of success, like ginger farming, should serve as an inspiration for every disheartened farmer or industrialist that business in Nepal can succeed and bring prosperity despite the country’s adverse political situation