Botanical Nutrition

by Rob Seeman official blogger of the health food movement

Asian demand for Maca root disrupts international natural products trade

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It really pains me to type that title, folks. I’m a big fan of Maca.  It is one of the best ‘tonic’ super foods – meaning that it is safe enough to eat every day and provides continual body strengthening benefits.  It is a member of the Cabbage family that only grows in the Andes mountains on the coast of South America.

When the Food Movement project first began bringing Red and Black Lepidium preuvianum (Maca root) from Peru into the US health food store market, I was ecstatic that we were able to bring this international superstar to folks at a fair price, and were able to work with our supplier partners to obtain verifiable certified organic plants in a raw form.  Now international demand has pushed prices sky high and made good materials more scarce.

So here’s the long a short of it; if you see a Maca you like on the shelves right now – especially at prices consistent with what they were earlier in the year – buy it all.  If you liked Maca at $13.99 for an 8 oz (retail price on TFM Red Maca before the recent disruption) you can expect to buy quite a bit more as the overall market absorbs supply-side price increases of 400 to 500%!

Consider this recent report from America TV

While price increases can cause problems for retail and wholesale suppliers, as well as importers (not to mention consumers!) the real problem may end up being one of supply. For a crop that only grows properly in a certain part of the world, there can be only a certain amount of supply without sacrificing quality.  At this moment I’d rather pay too much for Maca than have none at all!  It seems that it may be the only option we have.

As far as blaming Asian markets for this problem – if anyone is to blame it  might just be the Chinese government.  Because they had state-controlled limits on birth rates, recently lifted, their people were not concerned with procreating at the rate they are in the free world.  China’s one-child policy from 1979 to 2009 may have averted as much as 200 million births, although ethnic minorities within China were not limited by the single child rule and other exceptions were actually made to this limit.  Even so, since the change in China’s family planning policy, their demand for products ranging from Prenatal Vitamins and EFAs to aphrodisiacs such as Maca root, have skyrocketed.  As these pressures impact our global market, we can only do our best to keep our eyes on the prize in regards to sustainability, fair trade principles, and environmental footprint.  Good Maca will likely continue to be available, but we will always struggle with increased levels of inferior products as Maca poaching and other tactics become more profitable than ever.

Author: Rob Seeman

I can't imagine anything more important than making sure everyone in the world has healthy food. Other than making sure they have the freedom to live a healthy life in general.

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