For thousands of years, the Chinese have used herbal medicine products made from dried ginseng roots to treat their ailments. Even today, this ancient herb, which is a member of the ivy family, is still used in many forms in China as a medicine to rejuvenate the human body.
Ginseng roots grow in many parts of the world including China, Russia, Korea and some areas of North America. The United States, which has cultivated ginseng since the late 1800's, and Canada are two of the world's largest producers of American ginseng products.
U.S. ginseng products exported to China include tea, syrup, fruit juice with ginseng flavor, ginseng honey, liquor, pills and other products.
American ginseng products are sold in Chinese drugstores and medical institutions as tonics and herbal medicines. According to the Global American Ginseng Consumption Center, about 90 percent of the American ginseng output is consumed by people of Chinese heritage throughout the world, while 60 percent is consumed in China.
The Chinese Practice Ancient Philosophy:
American ginseng is believed to help develop what is called "Yin" to help clear heat from the body, particularly during the summer months.
One method of preparing ginseng for consumption is to simmer or stew ginseng roots or slices with other ingredients to make soup.
The slicing and packaging of ginseng roots is done in most state-owned drugstores where the product is sold. Packaged ginseng products are consumed by the Chinese as health food and are available in state-owned hospitals and other retailing outlets. The Chinese are partial to branded value-added products, believing they are more genuine.
American ginseng is mainly consumed in South and East China in Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian and Guangdong Provinces. But consumer preferences differ from market to market.
In Shanghai, long ginseng roots are considered to be of high-quality. Short and big roots are preferred in the Fujian Province. Small ginseng pellets with many growth rings are thought to have more tonic effects because of its age. Strong aroma, growth ring, weight, skin, the bitter-to-sweet taste and how easy the ginseng roots slice are just some of the general characteristics used to grade ginseng roots.
Demand for Ginseng Grows in China:
There is great potential for American ginseng exports to China, but U.S. exporters should focus on marketing efforts to expand their sales into China's interior provinces. Right now, branded American ginseng products, which are imported directly from the United States through Hong Kong, are usually processed in China. They are marketed as health food products or medicine and can be found in medical institutions and other retail facilities.
To export American ginseng roots and products to China, U.S. producers must obtain a required certificate issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an import permit which is issued by the Beijing-based Endangered Species of the Wild Fauna/Flora Import and Export Administrative Office.
U.S. value-added packaged ginseng products exported to China must obtain import approval either as a health food or as a medicine from the Ministry of Public Health. A certificate is also required for value-added ginseng products.
U.S. exporters who want more information on the South China ginseng market should contact:
Agricultural Trade Office American Consulate Guangzhou PSC 461 Box 100 FPO AP 96521-0002 Tel.: 8620-8666-3388, Ext. 1283 Fax: 8620-8666-0703
Kristine Cai is a Marketing Specialist in Guangzhou.