BENTONG: Armed with a degree in marketing management, Patrick Khoo returned home to join his father in ginger farming, aspiring to take the famous Bukit Tinggi variety – noted for its spicy and flavourful bite – to greater heights.
The Universiti Malaysia Terengganu graduate and third-generation ginger farmer recently gave his homemade ginger powder a digital push.
“UTAR students helped me set up web stores on Lazada and 11street to sell the product,” said the 38-year-old who joined his father Khoo Lu Sang, now 68, in running Fresh Ginger Trading after graduation.
Most of their fresh ginger are, however, still sold to wholesalers and returning customers.
The only one of four children to follow in his father’s footsteps, Patrick said they toil tirelessly on a 1.2ha plot, which is rented at about RM180 a year from the Forestry Department.
Their farm is part of the 287ha of hillside land leased to 231 villagers here, an arrangement facilitated by MCA about 10 years ago to solve the longstanding issue of squatting.
Patrick remembered the days when his father was planting ginger illegally in Janda Baik.
“The Forestry Department would carry out enforcement and destroy the crops. All our hard work would go to waste,” he said.
Having a piece of land to call their own, they now harvest about 15 to 20 tonnes of ginger a year.
Commonly known as Bentong ginger, the crop fetches up to RM24 per kg in the market, while normal ginger is sold at between RM5 and RM8 per kg.
“My dad is, of course, very happy with the high price now.
“Our ginger has become very famous thanks to MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who has been promoting Bentong ginger these few years,” said the Bukit Tinggi native who used to roam the farm as a child.
The condiment produced here is especially sought after by mothers for postpartum needs.
Patrick himself swears by the health benefits of the plant.
“I mix a small teaspoon of ginger powder into my Milo or teh (tea) every morning,” he said.
Liow posted a video on Facebook this week, training the spotlight on ginger farms in Bukit Tinggi.
The video shows Liow visiting Bukit Tinggi with former Bentong MP and MCA deputy president Tan Sri Lim Ah Lek in tow, exchanging warm greetings with the villagers.
Liow says Lim – his mentor – has played an indispensable role in assisting the farmers here and making their ginger a popular produce.
Patrick is also featured in the video briefly touching on land allocation.
Speaking to The Star yesterday, Patrick said Bentong ginger is also sold in Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Seremban, but the farmers here cannot guarantee constant supply due to the scarcity of land for ginger farming.
After a year of ginger planting, the land has to rest for about four or five years before the farmers can replant, he said.
“Therefore, we usually divide our land and plant the ginger in batches,” he said.
Nearby townships have also begun to plant the same type of ginger, but Patrick insisted that those from Bukit Tinggi are still the best.
“There is something about the soil here that gives the ginger its unique taste,” he said.