A rot disease afflicting rhizomes and the sharp decline in prices of raw ginger due to heavy rain have cut into the prospects of ginger farmers in Wayanad, one of the major ginger-growing regions in the State.

Most of the ginger plantations, especially in the low-lying areas of the district, are under the threat of rhizome rot, a fungal disease.

The spot price of new ginger a bag (60 kg) was Rs.1,100 at the Meenangadi market on Thursday against Rs.1,500 a week ago and the price of ‘monsooned' (old) ginger was Rs.3,000 against Rs.3,500.

“I planted ginger in one acre of leased land at a rent of Rs.40,000 a year around four months back. But I am forced to take a premature harvest owing to the spread of the fungal disease, locally called Mahali,” Mathew Parambil, a small scale farmer at Panamaram said. “When I purchased ginger seeds five months back, I paid Rs.3,500 a bag,” he added.

He had spent more than Rs.1.3 lakh for the cultivation so far and was not sure whether he could recoup even a fraction of his investment. “The condition of many ginger farmers is no different,” he said.

“The climate is favourable for the spread of the disease and the unprecedented flood in the low lying areas of the district has aggravated the situation,” he added.

Benny of Krishnagiri, a ginger merchant, said the tender ginger crop in the flooded areas would begin to rot in two days and the farmers in these areas would be forced to take a premature harvest.

The high price of ginger in the last four years attracted many farmers to ginger cultivation. The cost of cultivation may vary from Rs.80,000 to Rs.1,20,000 an acre. “The disease had affected the crops in the highlands too, especially in the persisting rain,” Ramakrishnan, a marginal farmer at Krishnagiri said.

“The main reason for the spread of the disease is the application of high dose of fertilizer,” Alex C. Mathew, Assistant Director of Agriculture, said.

The over-application of fertilizer leads to quick vegetative growth, which also increases the possibility of infection, especially in the rainy season, he added.

Apart from the rhizome rot, the other diseases afflicting ginger such as leaf spot disease and shoot borer attack had also increased in different parts of the district, he said.

According to the data of the Agriculture Department, ginger is cultivated in 5,500 hectares this year against 4,604 hectares in 2007-08.