Spice of life turmeric – ‘new gold’ for growers

Turmeric is valued in every Sri Lankan kitchen for its subtle flavour, distinct yellow colour and powerful aroma, has medicinal value as an anti-inflammatory humble spice in ayurvedic medicine.

Turmeric is grown in wet and intermediate zones as a mono-crop and an intercrop under coconut.  Major growing districts are Kurunegala, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy Matale and Ampara districts.

The cultivation of this traditional root dried out during the civil-war, the farmers took a while to regain momentum to cultivate it, particularly those in the North and East provinces, previous war zone.

Thus the country relied heavily on imported turmeric, as farmers in the country managed only to grow 2,000 of the 7,000 tonnes consumed by the population annually.

Last December, the government  banned the importation of turmeric with a view to push local production and helping small-scale farmers.

At the beginning the farmers thought they wouldn’t be able to sell their harvest with the corona pandemic imposed restrictions. In reality they received a better price to became a lucrative venture for them.

Earlier the farmers started growing turmeric, using organic fertilisers such as cattle manure. On average they planted 150kg of turmeric seeds in a quarter acre of land; to harvest 2,000kg.

In the markets, a kilogram of raw turmeric root used to sell for 80 rupees, but with the import ban in place, demand rose. After their harvest, farmers were getting 300 rupees a kilogram, while dried turmeric was fetching 4,000 rupees a kilogram.

In turmeric, the growers has found “new gold” for the import ban has proved a blessing, with the Coronavirus pandemic, as the price of raw roots has risen fourfold since the import ban.