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Jakarta Post

People rush for red ginger supplements as COVID-19 fears grow

  • Riza Roidila Mufti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 12, 2020   /   02:43 pm
 People rush for red ginger supplements as COVID-19 fears grow People buy herbal remedies including red ginger extract at the Babah Kuya Indonesia herbal and spice ingredient store on Jl. Pasar Selatan, Bandung, on March 3, 2020. (JP/Arya Dipa)

Demand for red ginger supplements has increased sharply lately, amid growing fears about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, as people believe the plant can boost the immune system, a senior executive of a pharmaceutical company has said.

Publicly listed Kalbe Farma has increased production of the herbal supplement made from red ginger extract by about 50 percent to meet the increase in demand for such supplements, the company’s president director Vidjongtius said.

Read also: Panic hoarding of herbs, medicinal plants amid virus scare takes toll on 'jamu' vendors

 “We have been developing herbal-based products and mostly use red ginger extract as the main ingredient. And it is such a coincidence that red ginger is in high demand at the moment,” Vidjongtius told a press briefing on Wednesday.

Red ginger is a plant that can be easily found in Indonesia. People believe it can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as it can strengthen the body’s immune system. People also use it as a remedy for a cough or headache. Kalbe Farma already sold a liquid herbal product made from red ginger long before the coronavirus outbreak.

Vidjongtius said that at the moment Kalbe Farma had between 400 and 500 tons of red ginger in its warehouses, enough to meet the surge in demand. The red ginger was obtained from about 9,000 farmers across Indonesia who had joined the farmer communities established by Kalbe, he said. The stocks, he said, were enough not only for Kalbe Farma, but also for other producers. 

Vidjongtius said Kalbe Farma‘s stocks for most of its pharmaceutical products were large enough to meet the demand for the next several months.

“We have enough stocks for pharmaceutical products to last 10 to 11 months. The stocks comprise raw materials, half-made products and even stock in outlets,”  he said.

Vidjongtius admitted that he initially worried that the COVID-19 outbreak would disrupt the supply of raw materials, as China is the main source of Kalbe Farma’s raw materials. In early February, producers of raw materials in China temporarily closed their production, but he said the disruption did not affect his company because of the large raw material stocks in its warehouses.

"We are now less worried, since according to the latest update they [suppliers in China] have started to resume their production, although not at full capacity. They also started to resume the [raw material] shipments, so we are less worried now,” he said.

However, although the shipment of raw materials from China would soon return to normal, Kalbe Farma is seeking other sources of raw materials to reduce its dependence on China such as India, Europe and the US.

Indonesia’s pharmaceutical industry still greatly relies on imported raw materials. According to the national pharmaceutical industry‘s estimate, about 95 percent of its raw materials are imported, with a total value of US$2.5 billion a year. About 60 percent of the imported raw materials are shipped from China.