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Farmers in India want to ban ginger production

Staff Writer | October 4, 2016
In the state of Karnataka, India, farmers and environmentalists have been calling for a ban on the cultivation of ginger, given the crop’s impact on soil fertility and groundwater levels.
Asia   An undersoil crop that extracts nutrients
Office-bearers from farmers’ groups say farmers are ready to give up ginger cultivation in the interest of the environment and soil.

Farmers in Hassan began ginger cultivation in the latter part of the last decade. Following a ban in Kerala, many farmers from there came to Hassan, among other districts of Karnataka, and took land on lease to grow ginger. Gradually, native farmers began growing the crop too.

A.B. Sanjay, Deputy Director of the Horticulture Department, says, “Ginger is an undersoil crop and extracts nutrients and moisture directly from the soil. Soil fertility is the immediate casualty of ginger cultivation.”

The farmers who were among the first to grow ginger are already experiencing its ill-effects. “Once ginger is grown in a particular land, farmers cannot get good produce from any other crop on that land for a couple of years. It takes years for the soil to fully regain its fertility,” the officer says.

At the moment, farmers grow ginger on over 10,000 hectares in the district. Each farmer drills one or two borewells; implying hundreds of borewells in a village, just for ginger cultivation. This has affected the groundwater table.

Ginger growers have been using chemicals extensively, affecting micro-organisms. There are allegations that banned fertilisers are being used.

“Farmers’ greed is one of the reasons for the increase in the area under ginger. They want to make a quick buck, and are not bothered about the long-term effects,” says Kottur Srinivas, district president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

He adds that the forum would help the government in spreading awareness, if the latter took a tough stand and banned the production of ginger altogether.