Jamaican Ginger


Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) is thought to have been introduced into Jamaica about 1525. By 1547 though, it is reported that the export of ginger amounted to over 22,000 quintals (1.2 million Kg).

fresh ginger

Prior to 1740, the ginger was associated with the Parish of St Ann, where it had first been planted by the Spanish. After that the Christiana region took over when it was recognised that the soil and climatic conditions were especially suitable for the growing of ginger. In 1980, a survey by the International Trade Centre reported that 1,100 acres of ginger were planted in Jamaica in the central range areas of Clarendon, Manchester and Trelawny.

200 years of ginger export

Between the 1930's and 1960's, Jamaica was listed as one of the three largest producers of ginger in the world, along with India and Sierra Leone. A 10-mile radius around Christiana was identified as the region which grew the finest ginger in the world. Since then the production has fallen significantly, from close to 2 million kilogram of ginger in 1953 to around 0.4 million kilos in 1995.

For 2014 ginger output is expected to nearly double last years production, assuming the 320 hectares (790 acres) yields 3 million kilogram. That's more than five times the 0.460 million kg produced in 2009. Jamaica's ginger production fell to an all-time low in the early 1990s, having been impacted by the rhizome rot and bacterial wilt diseases, that effectively rendered the country as a net importer of the product. For 2013, Jamaica exported slightly more than it imported.

The chief constraint for production seems to be associated with peeling, as this is time consuming and costly. An average worker can peel about 11 Kg of green ginger per day, which amounts to less than three (3) Kg of dried ginger. Another problem is that it is difficult to recruit new young staff. They are generally unwilling to take part in the peeling, which is usually left to older family members. Preparation involves removing the soil, then peeling the outer skin and spreading on mats in the sun for about 10 days in the sun, to reduce the moisture content to 10-12%

The 2008 country production figures from the FAO web site include Jamaica. These are shown in the Table below:

Rank Country Production (tonnes)
1 India 382600
2 China 328810
3 Indonesia 192341
4 Nepal 176602
5 Thailand 161505
6 Nigeria 140000
7 Bangladesh 77046
8 Japan 49800
9 Philippines 27538
10 Cameroon 11000
11 Malaysia 10340
12 Sri Lanka 10050
13 Bhutan 9870
14 Ethiopia 9000
15 Côte d'Ivoire 8200
16 Republic of Korea 3560
17 Fiji 2448
18 Costa Rica 955
19 United States of America 816
20 Mauritius 709
21 Dominican Republic 551
22 Guyana 520
23 Jamaica 298
24 Kenya 150
25 Dominica 120
26 Uganda 120
27 Réunion 96
28 Pakistan 95
29 Trinidad and Tobago 95
30 Puerto Rico 90
31 Ghana 70
32 Madagascar 30
33 United Republic of Tanzania 10
34 Saint Lucia 9

Jamaica can be seen to have dropped to a ranking of number 23 despite its reputation for flavour.

biscuit wrapperBiscuit wrapper from Australia


The sensory perception of ginger in the mouth and the nose arises from two distinct groups of chemicals:

- the volatile oils, a mixture of terpenoids which imparts the characteristic aroma and modifies the taste.
- the non-volatile pungent principles, such as the gingerols, shogaols, paradols and zingerone which produce the "hot" sensation in the mouth.

The gingerols are susceptible to transformation by heat to shogaols and to compounds such as paradols (from hydrogenation of shogaols) and zingerone.
HPLC has been used to measure the ratio of [6]-gingerol to [6]-shogaol which gives an indication of the extent of pungency degradation. The lower the value the higher the pungency loss.

The extractives (oil and oleoresin) are obtained from the dried rhizomes. About 2-3% of ginger oil is obtained on steam distillation and the main constituents include:

other important components include:
Ginger oil is often used for cordials and ginger wine and preserved ginger is a very popular confection and the main markets are the USA, Western Europe and Japan.
An IR spectrum of ginger oil is available in JCAMP-DX file format.

The oleoresin is a dark brown viscous semi-solid that can be extracted in around 8-14% yield by using either cold or hot percolation with aqueous ethanol.
The distribution of 6-, 8-, 10-gingerol and 6-shogaol found varies from location to location and on the temperature of the extraction:

Sample Origin 6-gingerol 8-gingerol 10-gingerol 6-shogaol Total Gingerols
Clarendon-1 12.25 2.70 4.34 1.48 19.29
Clarendon-2 11.98 2.35 3.44 1.38 17.77
St Thomas-1 16.07 5.02 4.20 3.21 25.29
St Thomas-2 10.77 2.11 2.16 0.94 15.04
St Thomas-3 12.72 2.52 3.78 1.50 19.02
St Thomas-4 13.96 3.66 3.91 1.28 21.53
St Ann-1 12.71 2.63 4.00 1.40 19.34
Minimum 10.77 2.11 2.16 0.94 15.04
Maximum 16.07 5.02 4.34 3.21 25.29
Average 12.92 3.00 3.69 1.60 19.61


"The analysis and applicability of Jamaican ginger oleoeresins to the nutraceutical industry", Y.A. Bailey-Shaw, W.A. Gallimore and C.S. Reid, Jamaican Journal of Science and Technology, 2001 and 2002, Vols 12 and 13, 80-92.
"Ginger farmers gather" Feature A14 in The Gleaner, June 15th, 1996.
"Jamaica could meet global demand for its ginger by 2019" The Jamaica Observer, Sunday, October 19, 2014.
"Ginger - A short economic history", D.W. Rodriquez, Agricultural Planning Unit, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, JAMAICA, 1971.
"Food Flavourings", Edited by P.R. Ashurst, Blackie Academic & Professional, an imprint of Chapman & Hall, Wester Cleddens Road, Bishopbriggs, Glascow, G64 2NZ, UK. 2nd edit. 1995.
See also the ginger page by Gernot Katzer and the monograph by the Steven Foster Group.
FAOSTAT provides free access to the Food and Agriculture Organisation's statistics

Return to links to the chemistry of other Jamaican items, including spices and fruit and vegetables.

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Copyright © 1995-2014 by Robert John Lancashire, all rights reserved.

Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J. Lancashire,
The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Created Feb 1995. Links checked and/or last modified 11th December 2014.
URL http://wwwchem.uwimona.edu.jm/lectures/ginger.html