Peruvian product hit in Chinese market

Updated: 2014-12-08 04:21

By Xiao Lixin in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)

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This year has seen a surge in the number of Chinese buyers rushing to the South American country of Peru to purchase maca root in large quantity, which pushed the per-kilo price to $25 from the previous $3.2, according to news reports from some Peruvian media outlets.

However, according to Juan Barillas, former chairman of the Exporters Association of Peru, since overall sale of the country’s agricultural products are still at low level, the sudden surge in price of maca is a result of sharply increasing demand of the plant, which is a normal phenomenon in line with international convention.

Maca, a nutritious and medicinal root planted in the Peruvian Andes, has been the object of trade fever over the recent decade and gained an increasing market share especially in Europe and Asia. As evidence in published clinical studies have revealed, maca’s value of highly nutritious composition and its legendary sex-enhancing function, its market price has, as a result, climbed quite steadily.

As maca products have grown more popular in the Chinese market, it is very likely it may become a new growth point of China-Peru economic trade in the future, said Gao Jinbao, commercial counselor at China’s Embassy in Peru. Once the market is opened, Peruvian products, including maca-related ones, will see a huge potential for export to China.

Observing such profit-making opportunities, farmers in China’s southwestern Yunnan province have begun to cultivate this plant since the former Ministry of Health approved it in 2002 as a new food source. Following maca growers in Lijiang, some other cities of the southwestern province such as Shangri-La and Huize have eyed the business opportunity and grown maca on a large scale. For example, the acreage of maca in Lijiang has increased to 20,000 mu (1,333 hectares) from 17,000 mu in 2012.

At present, there have already been about 300 companies, established between 2011 and 2013, doing maca-related business in Yunnan province, with more investment flooding in, according to Liu Dahui, an expert with the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science.

Type in keyword maca in Chinese on Taobao, China’s leading online shopping platform, and a list of about 45,000 products, in six categories turn up. The best-selling one has obtained a monthly-accumulated sales amount of more than 24,000 boxes.

But many maca product manufacturers, while advertising their products, have overemphasized its medicinal values, especially the use to improve sex drive, while neglecting it as a new source of nutritious food, with major common use such as the management of anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression as well as boosting energy levels and stamina, said Liu.

What is worth noting is that in contrast with the growing acreage of maca, the country has a long way to go in terms of in-depth development of the plant. According to Zhou Bangyong, deputy secretary general of the China Health Care Association, the maca industry in China is still at introductory stage, selling raw materials or semi-processed maca, instead of mature product line.

The domestic maca products lack in variety while in Western countries with more mature R&D and market, maca plants have been widely used in a group of health food, like energy drinks of juice and coffee.