New ITC-TRAFFIC publication promotes sustainability for Chinese medicinal plants
Substantial market opportunities exist around the world for certified medicinal and aromatic plants from China such as ginseng and frankincense. A new ITC publication points to how these opportunities can be captured in an environmentally responsible manner, contributing to improved biodiversity conservation and higher household incomes in the rural communities engaged in the collection of such plants in the wild.
‘Sustainable Sourcing: Markets for Certified Chinese Medicinal and Aromatic Plants’, prepared in partnership with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, reviews the potential global market for sustainably wild-collected botanical ingredients originating from China. The analysis provides an overview of current trade in wild-collected and cultivated botanical, algal and fungal ingredients. These include tea leaf, medicinal plants like ginseng, and aromatics such as ginger, herbal extracts, essential oils, natural gums, and seaweeds. It also describes market dynamics for certified ingredients.
The report provides a clear picture of how international sustainability standards and certification schemes relate to wild-harvested plant ingredients from China, and encourages the uptake of best practices in sustainable wild-harvesting and equitable trade. In so doing, it contributes to the pursuit of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which provide a framework on biodiversity for all partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy for the decade up to 2020. The report also supports key objectives of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
China is the biggest source and centre of production for many medicinal and aromatic plant materials used in traditional Chinese medicine. It produces a wide variety of plant-based herbal medicines and ingredients that are consumed within China and worldwide. However, wild plant resources in China, as in other parts of the world, are under threat, in large part because of overharvesting to meet high demand for traditional medicines and herbal products. Sustainable sourcing is therefore essential for the conservation of the species.
Moreover, sustainability certification can improve China’s share in the fast-growing market for sustainably sourced products. 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 (FLO) estimated a 182% growth rate for fair trade certified herbs, herbal teas and spices in 2013 compared with 2012.
The paper is part of a series entitled Sustainability Market Guides produced by the ITC Trade and Environment Programme.