Published 9 February 2012

  English | Japanese 

Japanese delegation visits India to learn about responsible & sustainable trade in medicinal plants

Bangalore, Karnataka, India, 9th February 2012—Representatives from leading herbal companies in Japan are visiting India this week as part of a drive to promote responsible and sustainable trade in medicinal and aromatic plants between the two countries. 

A Japanese delegation visited India to learn about sustainable practices used in plant harvesting and collection. © Kahoru Kanari / TRAFFIC

India is the second largest supplier of medicinal and aromatic plants to Japan, many of them wild sourced. At the same time, almost 1,000 medicinal plant species in India are of conservation concern, and over-exploitation of wild medicinal plants remains a major environmental protection issue. 

Non-sustainable harvest practices, coupled with accelerating trade demands, can lead to losses of large numbers of individual plants within populations, local population depletions and eventually extermination of a species. 

The private sector is considered one of the most important and influential stakeholder groups along the trade chain. Working with industry members, therefore, is a key step in the promotion of sustainable practices for harvest and collection of medicinal plants from the wild. 

MKS Pasha, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC India said “This visit is a critical step towards TRAFFIC’s aim of bringing positive behavioral changes in the herbal industry—a sector which deals with cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food products manufactured from wild medicinal and aromatic plants. 

“Promotion of sustainable practices will enable reliable and long-term supply of these medicinal plant ingredients to the industry.” 

The Japan-India exchange of experience and knowledge, organized by TRAFFIC with support from I-AIM (Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine) is taking place this week, with the Japanese delegation, led by Kahoru Kanari of TRAFFIC Japan, including representatives from leading companies dealing in herbal-based traditional Japanese incense and pharmaceutical products. The project is supported by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund.

The delegates are learning about the sustainable practices used in harvesting and collection of medicinal and aromatic plants through visiting the Medicinal Plant Conservation Area field study sites in Karnataka, and meeting with local communities, traders and key companies. 

A team of experts from I-AIM/FRLHT, Mr DK Ved (Advisor-I-AIM), Dr Padma Venkat (Drector-I-AIM), Dr K Haridasan (Joint Director-I-AIM), Mr Jagganath Rao (Scientist-I-AIM), were on hand to explain the nuances of the medicinal plant trade and its implications for conservation. 

The delegates also visited Natural Remedies Pvt. Ltd., a leading herbal pharmaceutical company in India, headquartered at Bangalore. The company is a manufacturer and supplier of standardized herbal extracts, phytochemicals and herbal veterinary healthcare products. Representatives of Natural Remedies showcased their good practices for procurement of medicinal plants and to assist in promoting sustainable trade practices for long term conservation.

Although China is the number one exporter of medicinal and aromatic plants to Japan, India plays an indispensable role, especially in trade of aromatic plants such as Sandalwood Santalum album, and also supplies various edible plants and spices such as Tea leaf Camellia sinensis and Cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum. Other commonly traded plants sourced from the wild in India include Banaba Lagerstroemia speciosa, Indian frankincense Oleo Gum Boswellia serrata, Salacia Salacia reticulata and Gotu kola Centella asiatica

In 2010, TRAFFIC drew attention to the value and significance of the trade in medicinal and aromatic plants to Japan for both manufacture and end-consumption in a report State of Wildlife Trade in Japan. The need for conservation of wild medicinal and aromatic plants was also high on the agenda at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP10) held in Nagoya, Japan that same year. The next CBD CoP will be held October this year in Hydrabad, India.


Representatives from leading herbal companies in Japan have just returned from their visit to India, where they witnessed at firsthand the responsible and sustainable collection practices utilized in the medicinal and aromatic plant trade. 

The visit, organized by TRAFFIC with support from I-AIM (Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine) took place as part of a project supported by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the benefits of sustainable sourcing of wild medicinal plants and to help promote use of the FairWild Standard within Japanese industries. 

Japan was the world’s fourth largest importer of medicinal and aromatic plants in 2007, and India the second largest supplier to the country. Many of the plants are wild sourced, however, this is not widely appreciated in Japan. 

The Japanese delegates were shown a variety of insights into the trade, including the techniques used to ensure the plants aren’t damaged during harvesting, the quantities a harvester can gather between early morning and noon, and how local NGOs organize individual harvesters into co-operatives. Briefings took place through face to face meetings with local communities and industry, the Forestry Department and other stakeholders.

The FairWild Standard has previously been implemented in field projects in Uttrakhand and Karnataka, and used to inform the National Committee on non-timber forest products (NTFP) and the medicinal, aromatic and dye plants (MADP) guidelines for India's National Working Plan Code.

“Following the success of this visit, we hope that participating companies look favourably upon adopting and implementing the FairWild Standard, to ensure its use becomes widespread within Japanese industry,” said TRAFFIC’s Kahoru Kanari. 

“We also hope the companies can help promote our way of thinking within the private business sector. 

“In the long run, involvement of Japanese industry should have a positive impact on conservation of wild plant resources.”

An intensive round table meeting of leading herbal companies in Japan will be held next month in Tokyo.

A delegate from Shoyeido Incense Co., a company with a 300 year history of supplying Traditional Japanese incense (Koh), said: “The visit has been instrumental in gaining a vision and understanding of medicinal plant sustainability and conservation issues. We have also allowed us to improve learning about India’s leading expertise in the medicinal plant sector and sustainability practices.” 

“The enthusiasm shown by local experts and industry in answering our many questions has been very encouraging.”

The delegate from Uchida Wakanyaku Ltd., a traditional Japanese medicine (Kampo) pharmaceutical company supplying a wide range of natural ingredients said: “The field visits brought home to us the importance medicinal and aromatic plants play in the livelihoods of local communities.”

“It helped us appreciate the importance and necessity of the system for sustainable harvest of medicinal plants promoted by TRAFFIC and through the FairWild Standard. We will make good use of what we have learned.”

The FairWild Standard also supports Japan’s effort to achieve the targets of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), as well as specific targets of the CBD’s Global Strategy for Plants Conservation, through promoting sustainable sourcing of wild plant resources and fair benefit sharing with local harvesters. 

Japan is the current chair of CBD, and in 2010 hosted the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention (CoP10) in Nagoya, where the Aichi Biodiversity Target and Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) were agreed. The next full CBD meeting, CoP 11, takes place in Hyderabad, India in October this year. 

More information on FairWild in Japanese is available in this brochure.