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Thursday
Feb112016

China’s market potential for sustainably sourced wild plants

Cambridge, UK, 11th February 2016—A study launched this week by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and TRAFFIC examines the potential global market for sustainably sourced wild-collected botanical ingredients originating from China, the world’s leading exporter of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), accounting for over 15% of global exports.

Sustainable Sourcing: Markets for Certified Chinese Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (PDF, 1.5 MB) finds there are substantial market opportunities for certified MAPs from China, while capturing the opportunities these present could lead to improved biodiversity conservation, additional household income and investment to rural communities engaged in wild-harvesting.

The report also provides an overview of current export trade in wild-collected and cultivated botanical, algal and fungal ingredients; market segments; and the market trends for certified ingredients in China.

It aims to help companies gain greater access to markets for their sustainably wild-harvested products, both within China and internationally and also to contribute to the ongoing dialogue among Chinese government agencies regarding the recognition and uptake of international voluntary standards and certification projects to verify sustainable wild-harvesting and fair trading practices.

Between 2013 and 2015, TRAFFIC, with funding from the EU-China Environmental Governance Programme (EGP), together with the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS), WWF China Programme Office (WWF CPO), and Zhejiang Wecome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd (Wecome), implemented a project on “Engaging China’s private sector in sustainable management of medicinal plants—the multiplier effect” that focused on building sustainable supply chains for medicinal plants in two important centres for sourcing, trade and manufacturing in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry in Hunan and Zhejiang provinces.

The resulting market study helped demonstrate the potential and benefits of access by Chinese companies to Voluntary Standard Systems (VSS) and certification schemes.

China is the origin of and biggest centre of production for many MAP materials used in TCM. It produces a wide variety of plant-based herbal medicines and ingredients that are consumed within China and worldwide.

In figures: China's 2013 exports of MAPs ca. 1.3 billion kg, worth >USD5 billion, ca. 15.6% total world exportsHowever, wild plant resources are under threat in China, many of them because of overharvesting to meet high demand from the TCM and herbal products industry.

“Sustainable sourcing makes sense both from a conservation and a business point of view,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Medicinal Plant Programme Leader.

“Sustainable sourcing is essential to conserve the plant species being harvested, while, as our studies demonstrate, sustainability certification has huge potential to improve the market share for Chinese products.”

The FairWild Standard is the only international standard developed and implemented specifically for the sustainable management, use and trade of wild MAPs. Currently many Chinese MAP materials are traditionally wild-harvested by local communities for household and village income and already many of them destined for export are organic certified.

“There’s a clear opportunity for Chinese MAP wild-collection enterprises to add further value through FairWild certification,” said Timoshyna.

Dual FairWild and organic certification could strengthen long-term buyer-seller trade relationships and increase earnings and community investment, and support claims about the quality, traceability and efficacy of TCM ingredients.

The uptake of sustainability standards and certification schemes for wild-harvested plants could also assist China’s contribution towards the delivery of some of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Targets, the sustainable use objective of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), and supports the country’s implementation of legislation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The category of “fair” certified natural ingredients and natural products is among the fastest-growing subsectors globally. Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) reported a 23% increase in the quantity of fair trade certified herbs and spices imported by the United States in 2013 compared with the previous year. Globally, Fairtrade International estimated a 182% growth rate for fair trade certified herbs, herbal teas and spices in 2013 compared with 2012.

The latest report is published as part of an ongoing ITC series entitled Sustainability Market Guides produced by the ITC Trade and Environment Programme. It was launched to coincide with Biofach 2016, in Nuremberg, Germany, the world's leading trade fair for organic food products.

This communication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this communication are the sole responsibility of TRAFFIC and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

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