Vast potential for Malaysia's black ginger to reduce import dependence

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia, which spends hundreds of million ringgit to import spices annually, should encourage the local black ginger industry to enhance exports.

This would also create new jobs for Malaysians, said former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his visit to the JannaFarm black ginger farm at Lang Agro Park near Kuah, Langkawi last weekend.

Tun Mahathir was on a four-day visit to the island to witness the Langkawi tourism bubble program.

JannaFarm chairman and former Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar, during his presentation, said Malaysia imported between RM40 billion and RM50 billion of food and food-based products every year.

Hundreds of million of ringgit is spent to import raw ginger, black ginger and similar herbs and spices for cooking, cosmetics, wellness and medicinal purpose.

Othman said most of the raw black ginger was imported from Thailand and Cambodia.

He claimed that they were more expensive and of lower quality.

"The raw ginger from Thailand and Cambodia are high in toxin content due to the extensive use of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers to improve yield. We are engaging with 15,000 local Malaysian ginger farmers to help produce this premium quality Langkawi black ginger strain to be grown organically," he said.

JannaFarm chief executive officer Engku Azhan Fahmi told the New Straits Times that the firm operated black ginger farms in Malaysia based on contract-farming and crowd-farming.

He said the farms used 95 per cent less water with drip-fertigation, zero pesticides with natural pest control, composting for organic fertilisers, booster enzymes and effective microorganisms (EM) to create high-quality rhizomes while conserving the environment.

According to him, black ginger is rich in amino acid, selenium, antioxidants, bioflavonoids and has been commonly used as a traditional treatment for multiple types of illnesses for over 1000 years in India, China, Africa and Southeast Asia.

"Our rhizomes are in the process of being certified organic. Our high-quality rhizomes, extracts, and products are the result of extensive R&D, scientific and clinical studies, and laboratory testing at both domestic and international facilities and institutions.

"There are over 130 scientific research papers done on black ginger alone; some based on laboratory tests done on cancer tissues and animals," he said.

Engku Azhan said a team from Universiti Putra Malaysia had been working on tissue culture experiments to create the best strain for the Langkawi black ginger rhizomes.

"We have tested using a Swiss-patented technology to improve the efficacy of our extract, thus multiplying the potency by up to 75 times, resulting in more rapid effect, increased cellular absorption, enhanced nutrient potency and stability via encapsulation on the molecular scale," he added.

The Swiss company had produced a curcumin-based extract combined with vitamin C as the first natural supplement to be clinically tested for zero pain in Covid-19 patients and proven to improve its symptoms, he said.

Engku Azhan also said JannaFarm was in discussion with an Australian-based laboratory on clinical studies for approval of its active ingredient "5,7-dimetoxiflavone" to be used as an "over-the-counter" prescribed drug.

In the downstream, JannaFarm is working with local and international manufacturers and joint venture partners to build a new, innovative and high-end wellness and cosmetics products for the global market.

Current products by Jannafarm include black ginger extracts, ground powder, ZestCafe, ZestCafe Plus and Zestea.

Engku Azhan said a few more products like soap/scrub, health elixir, chocolate and candies would be launched in the next few months.

"We are constantly on the lookout for agents, suppliers and distributors for marketing and distribution to the local and international market," he added.

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