It is commonly known as ‘ekinzaali’ and it is used as the main base for spices in foods and sauces. It is sold in St. Balikudembe market by many traders. However, not many farmers in Uganda grow it.
“Much of the turmeric consumed here is imported from India,” Sam Babumba, a dealer in the spice says. A kilogramme of processed turmeric goes for between sh4,000 and 6,000.
Twaha Kakooza, a farmer who grows turmeric in Kayunga district, says since it is a tropical crop, turmeric can be grown in Uganda. Botanically called curcuma Longa, turmeric looks like ginger on the outside, but is orange or yellowish inside.
“Although many Ugandans do not give this plant much attention, it is a tropical perennial plant that can grow in Uganda,” he says. Kakooza calls it the ‘golden spice of life’. It is one of the essential spices used in cooking all over the world.
Why production is still low
Turmeric can be grown in many areas that grow ginger in Uganda. Kakooza says lack of awareness on the uses of turmeric is among the reasons why most Ugandans do not go into its production.
He adds: “Producing turmeric is left to few farmers because it takes nine months to mature, yet some farmers prefer crops that take a shorter period.”
How to cultivate it
Turmeric is grown both under rain-fed and irrigated conditions. Like other tuber crops, turmeric requires deep soil tilt and heavy manure for high yields.
According to Kakooza, after selecting suitable cultivation site, beds of convenient length and width are prepared, based on the topography of the land.
He says the soils for this plant should be rich, with plenty of organic matter. Organic matter or fertilisers can be got from rotting matter.
“Though turmeric is suited for a number of soil types, loam and sandy loam soils are preferable. Flat land, with little or no slope is recommended,” Kakooza says.
It can be manually done, using a spade or a hoe. A planting distance of 50cmx30cm is often adopted for turmeric planting.
According to Kakooza, turmeric can also be inter-cropped with other crops, such as, maize, pepper and mung bean.
Aisha Nabbosa, a manager at Shatwa Mixed Farm in Kayunga, says for good crop yield and maximum farmer economic return, it is advisable to mulch the turmeric plot after planting.
Fertilise the plot using a combination of inorganic fertilisers, such as poultry and cow dung.
Turmeric has a vast variety of medicinal uses.
“In traditional medicine, it is used to treat liver ailments, ulcers, parasitic infections, skin problems, bruises, joint pain and inflammation, sprains and strains, among others.”
The turmeric is ready for harvest when the plant dries, approximately seven to 10 months after planting, depending on the soil and growing conditions.
Dig up the entire plant, ensuring that you dig up the entire root. An acre can yield as many as three tonnes.
Facts on global production
Globally, the world production level for turmeric is between 11 and 16 million tonnes annually and out of these production figures, India accounts for over 78% of the annual production of turmeric.
India is followed by China and Myanmar in Asia. Nigeria is the fourth largest producer of turmeric, with about 3% of the global annual production.