Demand for immune boosting home remedies pushes up prices for ginger and spices

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Aug 6, 2020

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THE demand for home-made immune boosters using fresh ginger and spices during the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the rise in prices.

In addition, some pharmacies are running low on zinc and multivitamins as South Africans build their immune systems.

A fresh produce wholesaler, who declined to be named, said he paid R350 for 10kg of ginger in February but the price was now between R1 300 and R500 for the same weight.

He said the price was further marked up by supermarkets and fresh produce stores.

“The price increase is partly due to the demand. A lot of people are using the extracts from ginger for home-made remedies. There’s also a demand for lemons,” said the wholesaler.

He said customers had complained about the price.

“But we have to make some profit, like 10 to 20%, in comparison to 80 or 100% profit in the previous months. We aren’t benefiting by much.”

The owner of a fruit and vegetable shop said he sold ginger at R120 a kilogram. In some outlets, ginger is being sold at R160 to R229 a kilogram.

He said he was able to keep the price relatively low because he bought the ginger directly from farmers.

“Since April, as soon as we got stock, it was sold out within days. I managed to get some ginger last week and it’s selling fast.”

Kogie Naidoo, 48, of KwaDukuza, said she depended on home-made remedies after she tested positive for Covid-19 in June.

“When I received my results, I began making different remedies, which my family and I drank every hour,” said Naidoo.

She said she continued to make the hot drinks – using ginger, lemon and cinnamon in boiling water – even after she tested negative.

“These were all home remedies that my family trusted and I have seen the benefits. Every morning and evening, I add turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and fresh ginger to hot water.”

She said she bought about 4kg of ginger two months ago, and paid between R120 and R140 a kilogram.

Naidoo said when she ran out of ginger she had no choice but to pay the new price – even if it was expensive.

A Verulam resident said ginger was being sold at R189 a kilogram at the area’s market.

“Right now, we’re all trying to make any remedies that we read about to boost our immune systems. People have shared on social media that they have or are using ginger as a home remedy and I’m doing the same,” said the resident.

“My sister had tested positive for Covid-19 and because there’s no medication to treat the virus, we are reliant on the remedies that our elders used and believed helped with some of the symptoms like a tight chest, a headache or a fever.”

She said she usually bought ginger and garlic for cooking and never took notice of the price until she went to the market last week and was charged R80 for four pieces of ginger.

“That was when I asked for the price of a kg. It was shocking as it was more than what you would pay for a kg of lamb, which is generally in the same price region, depending on where you’re buying it from. But many people, such as myself, are willing to pay the price. I have family who have the virus and I have read the benefits of ginger.”

Verushka Memdutt, an executive member of the Coalition of the Poor, an organisation which assists informal traders, among other things, said the mid-season harvesting of ginger was between April and May, and late harvesting was in June and July.

“The demand for ginger, coupled with seasonal challenges limiting the supply, has impacted negatively on businesses and caused a roll-on effect to households.

“The sad reality is that while ginger is suggested to assist in the defence against Covid-19, many households will struggle to access the commodity due to the prices.”

Vinod Harie of Spice Emporium said ginger powder, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper were selling quickly.

“There’s a demand for these powdered spices compared to the previous months. People who have either contracted the virus, or want to boost their immune systems should they contract it, are using these spices for home remedies. They also serve as anti-inflammatory agents.”

Hemitha Badul, the owner of Spice Delights, said the popular spices included ginger and garlic powders, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and pure honey.

“We also have people coming in for moringa powder, which is a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, as well as amla powder, which is high in vitamin C.

“There is also a demand for camphorated oil. During this time, many people are trying to boost their immune systems and have resorted to natural products.”

Many users on social media have spoken about the demand for multivitamin tablets such as zinc and vitamin C at pharmacies, some of which have run out of stock.

A pharmacist in the Durban CBD said: “We have between 10 and 15 customers a day who want zinc as well as vitamins C and D tablets or capsules.

“Many of them have said that they have a family member who tested positive and they have read about the benefits of such medication. Prior to Covid-19, we placed orders for this medication every month or second month. Now we order them every week.”

A Chatsworth pharmacist said there was also a demand for vitamin B complex tablets and multivitamin syrups for children.

“People are concerned as the number of infections increase and they want to build their immune systems. We had to double our stock order in June.”

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