Ethnobotanical International Visions & Strategies

Technical support and resource services for medicinal plants

EIVS is a company providing management, technical support and resource services associated with the agriculture, scientific and commercial sectors of the medicinal plant industry.

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Low motivation at the production level

Most medicinal plant production is done on small scales or wild harvested. In India wild harvest accounts for about 40% of the medicinal plant harvest each year. The remaining 60% is spread out over thousands of small farms in extremely varied climates and terrains – often inaccessible by modern transport. Africa and China are very similar in this respect.

According to WWF Pakistan (Hussain, 2004) the interest in gathering medicinal plants is dwindling due to economic factors. Take for example the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root) which is sold by the harvesting local mountain people for 10 INR or 0.15 Euros per kilo. As a non-prepared bulk herb in powder form this plant sells for 18.70 Euros per kilo in Europe. As a prepared product sold in 450mg capsules this plant costs approximately 400 Euros per kilo in Europe. This means the end user pays 125 to 2666 times more than the farmer or gather receives from the local buyer. Simple economics makes medicinal plant harvesting a less desired occupation.

The above example applies to India, China, South America and Africa. In North America another problem exists. A farmer of high quality organic plants in North America can make as much as 5% of the end user price. Wholesalers or herbal companies often fail to understand public trends and the supply and demand related to herbal products. For example, one plant, Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap), was sold in Europe for 13 Euros per kilo in 2002; it is now selling for 48 Euros per kilo – an increase of 3.7 times in 10 years. As far as we have been able to determine this is solely due to the increase of demand without a corresponding increase in production. The farmers cannot produce if the buyers do not purchase the products. The demand is there, however, the public sector is dependent on the middle men who buy and sell medicinal plants as commodities. As a group they lack the overview to foresee the market correctly.

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Overview of low motivation at the production level