'Halo' superfoods reap pandemic profits

There's a gnarled brown root that's turned to gold since the pandemic struck: ginger.

Karima Imam has five hectares of fields in northern Nigeria.

Her workers can hardly harvest fast enough as people around the world seek to guard against illness by turning to so-called "halo" foods, which they believe will boost their immunity.

Imam is building her new home with a small warehouse so she can store and sell fresh ginger -- more lucrative than having to cut and dry it.

"If I have enough capital I will plant more ginger because the demand is high, people are looking for ginger, and ginger is not enough so I want to plant more if I have the capital. The only problem is capital and insecurity in our area farm."

Scientists have dismissed many claims about so-called superfoods fending off the virus, though their positive role as part of a healthy diet is acknowledged.

But prices have jumped in the past year for ginger in Nigeria, acai berries in Brazil, Indian turmeric and Chinese garlic.

In the Nigerian capital, Abuja, a 50 kilo bag of ginger sells for 15,000 naira, or just under 40 dollars -- compared with 4-6,000 naira two years ago.

Resident Aminat Bello is a believer in ginger's medicinal properties.

"Before, I take it but it is not much, but due to the COVID-19, we take it now, every time in my house. In the morning, when we are drinking tea, we take ginger. In the afternoon, when we want to cook rice, jollof rice, beans, maybe if I want to boil meat, I use it."

Meanwhile, China's exports of garlic went up 30% over 2020, compared to the year before, and those of Indian turmeric jumped 36%.

Imam says during lockdown, she boiled a halo cocktail of ginger, turmeric and garlic to take as a remedy.

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