St. John’s Wort Prices (1999)
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Sinan Tömekçe
Posted on: June 17, 1999

Would you please inform me what dried Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s Wort) bulk world prices are? We can collect it and export it. We need to know the trading prices.

St. John’s Wort (SJW) herb is in deep supply right now (full inventories), with wild and cultivated domestic fields ready for harvest. Here is the problem. Last year the market demand was almost 1,000 tons from domestic sources. This year, the demand will be only 300 tons, less than one third that of last year. And, of course, many cultivated fields will be showing their first harvests (new sources) in one week.

What happened? Indian, Bulgarian, and Chilean sources came into the US with poor grade harvests (hypericin levels at 0.08%, or less) in December, and many buyers took in the crop because of the cheaper pricing (less than $1.40/lb., FOB) This then went into formulas and was then sold to the public. Of course, it did not deliver promised reactions (no chemistry), so the public became disenchanted with SJW as an anti-depressant. Hence, the market demand dropped.

To further add insult to this injury, many manufacturers were ordered to remove their product from the shelves because of false labeling. This led to further disbelief in this crop as an anti-depressant drug. Most manufacturers don’t care, only interested in the "What’s new?" syndrome. In fact, most manufacturers don’t even have a clue as to what they are selling to the public.

St. John’s Wort will sell with harvests, but most buyers are playing the "Let’s wait and see what happens" game. New inventories from growers will panic, and offer their crop at almost any price, and the price will fall to probably $1.60/lb., FOB for hypericin levels of 0.2+%. False advertising will add to this flame, with claims of 0.5%. Good luck proving that with bogus certificates of authenticity.

It’s really a shame what happens when those truly into their farming efforts have to compete with the "get rich quick" farming ventures that don’t really deliver. I do believe that after this summer, the market will eventually stabilize and hold a demand of about 400 tons per year, with prices somewhere around $2.80/lb., FOB, for hypericin levels of 0.2+%.

And, there will always be those with loyalty to specific growers and wildcrafters, offering contracts for more stable sources of supply. But that probably won’t happen for another year. Many from other countries can’t even spell the herb correctly, much less deliver what our markets truly want. This is why I want to emphasize the importance of "Buy North American First."

Per dollar spent, North American agriculture is still the "best buy" there is. You get more for your buck than from any other country. When will the major buyers and manufacturers wake up and realize this? Chasing the "all mighty buck" and profit lines has put our agriculture into serious jeopardy. The American consumer is too smart for this to continue much longer.

And finally, I can not stress enough the importance of diversification in your overall farm plan. Rather than put hundreds of acres in on a specific crop, I don’t believe more than 40 acres should be grown on any given item. And the most successful farm plans offer more than 12 different crops in their overall program.

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