Trading standards for export
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CTA. 2007. Trading standards for export. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/3. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57377
Producing detailed documentation on 50 important African medicinal plants, to aid international marketing of these species.
Trading standards for export Cue: The global market for medicinal plants is huge, amounting to millions of dollars each year. It is also a growing market, with increasing numbers of people, particularly in Europe and the United States, using herbal medicines not only as treatment for illnesses, but as a regular part of their diet. For anyone using or selling a herbal medicine, having precise knowledge about the medicine is obviously important. In particular, they need to know what the plant is used for, how effective it is, and how safe it is. Those wanting to sell medicinal plants to markets in Europe or America must be able to answer these questions. For African medicinal plants, however, this creates a problem, as many plants are not fully documented. Currently, an organisation called the Association for African Medicinal Plants Standards, or AAMPS, is trying to address the issue. With advice from experts from across Africa, the association is writing herbal profiles, detailed descriptions of the 50 most important African medicinal plants, in the hope that this will support the marketing of these plants. Kobus Eloff, one of the founders of the association, explained more to Lucas Moloi. IN: ?We have got more plants species ? OUT: ? Africa of the whole world.? DUR?N: 5?13? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Kobus Eloff of the Association for African Medicinal Plants Standards. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Eloff We have got more plants species in Africa than there are in China and in India but if you look at herbal medicines that are used in Europe you find that a very very few African herbal medicines are used and many many herbal medicines from India and many many especially from China as well. Moloi So why do so many people in Europe prefer Indian and Chinese plant medicine compared to African? Eloff In India and China information has been written down over a very long time now and all this information is available in a written form and people can read that and evaluate it. Whereas in Africa most of the information has been orally brought over from one generation to the next generation. So the difficulty in Africa is that people wanting to import plant material from Africa, they cannot really evaluate the quality and the value of that plant material. Moloi AAMPS has been writing herbal profiles for African medicinal plants. What is a herbal profile? Eloff What the herbal profile does, we also call it a trading standard, it tells a person that would want to import this exactly what this plant has been used for, every bit of information that we can collect is in there, and then also what the safety of that plant is. Moloi How will these herbal profiles be useful to those growing medicinal plants? Eloff What we hope is that it will create a market. If let?s say there is a certain plant species that is grown in Tanzania, for example, and it is also valuable and if people have written these profiles they can see that this is an important plant and it addresses a need in Europe, then it will create a market. So the challenge is really to establish a market and then also to provide plant material of high enough quality. Quality is very important because if the quality is not good enough people will not import it and if the quality is poor then the name of that plant species will go down. Moloi What will be key factors in achieving consistent quality? Eloff I think for consistent quality there are a number of factors. The first is that you must have the right plant material, because you must remember in the end if you use a herbal plant for a medicine, it is actually not the plant that we need, it?s the chemical compound that is inside the plant. So if you can find a certain plant from a certain area that has got very high concentration of this active compound it will be very valuable to grow that plant. And then the next thing is also, after you have grown the plant material and let?s say you need the leaves or you need the bark then what do you do with that. It must be dried under good conditions, there must be no fungus growing on it. So not only during the growing but also after you have harvested it is very important that it should be treated in a very good way. Moloi Should small-scale farmers expect to work independently or as out growers or members of a group or cooperative? Eloff I think the way that it would probably work out, a small-scale farmer will not be the person exporting it to someone else, because a person exporting the plant material will probably be contacted by someone from Europe or America. They said, ok they need so many tons of this and this plant, and then he will go to different areas, small communities and ask them whether they are able to grow the plant material. This is going to need something that is very well organised and well integrated and will probably grow through big exporters. I think they will be the people that do most of the work because they will also have the contact with the people in Europe that will have the demand for the plant material. Moloi So what can African countries do to increase and expand their medicinal plant market in the future? Eloff We are forming a very important link between Africa and Europe. If we have these written profiles now they will have to be big developments and that is where big enterprises or business companies will have to come in. If we have African businesses that start working in this area where they have good contacts with people in Germany or in France or in Europe or everywhere else where they need the different plant materials, they will then start identifying. This is already happening in some cases where you have got big companies in East, West or southern Africa and they already appoint people to grow these plant materials. But what has happened frequently, they grow Chinese plant materials or Indian plant materials in South Africa and then they export this because there is a market. And I think one of the most important things of these profiles that we are writing is that we identify where there are gaps in literature. Let?s say that you have got a wonderful plant that helps for inflammation of whatever area and people have been using it a long time but we are not sure how safe that plant is. So in such a case there will have to be experiments done to determine the safety and then a scientist could then go to a funding organisation and say, ?This is one of the 50 most important African medicinal plants but we do not know what the safety is. We want to do safety experiments.? And then there is a good chance that he could get funding. Moloi Now Mr Kobus Eloff, I thank you very much and I appreciate your time you have shared with us. Eloff I am very glad to have the opportunity because I think it is a wonderful opportunity. We have got such wonderful plants that we have in Africa and we must share it with the rest of the world and remember Africa will also benefit because now we know that the plants that they grow in Senegal for example, when we have all the information available, then these plants growing in Senegal or in Cameroon or Nigeria or wherever, or in Namibia, they can be used for all the people of Africa. Not only of Africa of the whole world. End of track.