The retail price of fresh root ginger is set to more than double as a result of major shortages in China, which produces 30% of the world’s supply.

The retail price war has kept prices down as low as £2.15/kg, but buyers predict they could go as high as £4.72/kg in the next year as the amount of Chinese product falls in the wake of an unusually dry summer and less ginger being planted after years of low prices.

“The cost prices have doubled in the last four months and they are expected to go higher over the next two years,” warned Tesco exotic vegetable buyer Harry Jones. “It is likely there will be retail inflation across the major multiples.”

Supply issues were being exacerbated by attempts by Chinese growers to cash in on the high prices for ginger seed, reducing the amount of ginger for planting, said Jones.

Exports have also been hit by the imposition of stricter export standards by China’s pesticide regulatory body, China Inspection and Quarantine, following a scare two years ago.

The reaction of Chinese consumers to the swine flu pandemic has put further pressure on supply as they are using ginger in an attempt to ward off the virus.

The news is a blow to retailers, who now regard fresh root ginger as an essential item. “Ginger is such a unique ingredient and has become a must stock on the retailers’ fixture,” said Jones. Tesco alone racks up annual sales in excess of £3m.

UK import volumes had increased in recent years as consumers had become aware of ginger’s benefits, added David Thaka, MD of ginger importer Superfoods UK.

A price rise has been on the cards for some time, he added. “Quite frankly, the price of ginger should not have been as low as it has been,” he said. “For the last two years, farmers have been losing heavily on ginger because of very very low prices.”

Ginger is also available from countries such as Thailand and Brazil, but prices are benchmarked against China, sources say.