Banting, being the largest collective ginger plantation in Kuala Langat district, has porous black peat soil which is suitable for planting fruits and vegetables. Most villages in the district rely on agriculture as their main economic activity, about 1400 acres of land has been cultivated into ginger plantations by around 50 farmers. Among them, Jenjarom village listed ginger as one of the four local treasures. Due to soil degradation and pollution, there is less favourable farmland in Jenjarom; only a few farmers persist in planting ginger due to poor yields.
There are two categories of ginger: young ginger, which is harvested around 5½ months; and mature ginger, which is harvested around 8-10 months. As ginger cultivation involves high risks, especially the weather, mature ginger is priced higher, though young ginger is more in demand. The prices per kilogram for mature ginger is between RM15-RM20, while RM4-RM5 for young ginger. Unlike other areas famous for mature ginger (Bentong, Raub), Banting focuses on young ginger cultivation, with high yields and market penetration up to 70% in Malaysia, as well as exports. Apart from young ginger, Banting also produces galangal and turmeric, each with their own flavour and usage. Young ginger is used in cooking chicken and fish, or shred into crispy strips. Galangal has far wider usage, to cook beef, pork, mutton, duck, making satay sauce, and even extracted to make perfume. Besides enhancing flavour, turmeric also imparts colour, mostly used in cooking rice and curry.
77-year-old Tan Ngoo is a senior ginger farmer in Banting, who enjoys starting his daily work at the farm before dawn, taking an hour’s break for lunch, then continuing to work until sunset. Uncle Tan has been helping his father farming vegetables since he was 12 years old, upon adulthood he ventured in cultivating ginger, which has a higher yield compared to other vegetables. One tonne of ginger seed pieces may yield 7-8 tonnes, in a bad crop 3-4 tonnes, which was enough to make ends meet. With decades of experience, Uncle Tan is very knowledgeable in ginger cultivation. He gradually expanded his land from 2 acres to dozens of acres, hiring workers to help in farming, and producing plenty of ginger seed pieces. There are four types of ginger originating from Indonesia, Sabah, Laos, and Vietnam. Sabahan ginger is most popular in Banting, as it is more flavourful and disease-resistant.
Weather plays an important role in ginger cultivation, too little or too much rainfall impacts ginger yields, whereas drought causes maldevelopment or withering. Crop rotation is also critical to preserve the productive capacity of the soil. After harvesting ginger, crops such as corn, bananas, and sweet potatoes are then planted in succession before another batch of ginger. The only exception is galangal which can be continually planted for 3-4 years before crop rotation. Aerial view of the Banting farms shows rectangular plots with a variety of crops.
As the plots of Banting belong to different landowners or farmers, with limited types of crops which can be planted, the Selangor Coastal Vegetable Farmers’ Association is formed to protect their rights and interests. Whenever farmland becomes flooded, or farmers face land allocation problems, the association helps in dealing with government authorities to work out solutions. Over 200 members of the association cooperate and assist each other, exchanging information and insights in experimental agriculture projects. During harvest, they also unite to negotiate a fair price with distributors.
On the stretches of agricultural land in Banting, Uncle Tan and his four siblings, as well as his son, toil hard in their plots. Together with over 200 members of the Selangor Coastal Vegetable Farmers’ Association, who are like brothers without blood relationship, they make profit through ginger cultivation.
Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen
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Producer : Mok Yii Chek
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