Top Undersupplied Herbs (1999-2000)
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Tracy Shrimpf
Posted on: December 20, 1999

We [British Columbia Herb Growers Association] are just putting together our next newsletter for growers. The main topic is Industry Trends. Would you be able to give us 4-6 herbs that you think are still undersupplied by commercial growers in North America? The bulk of our growers are certified organic so those are always of the greatest interest.

You bet. I’d be glad to offer some specifics for British Columbia growers. I’ll do the list, then offer some detail. Cut and paste, as you need my marketing tips. Further, if you would like, I miss writing and would like to contribute more, as you might need me. A display ad for my new titles would be ample trade for in-depth articles.

OK, the list for next year in the British Columbia region should include

Pyrethrum Flowerheads. This requires a flowerhead harvester type device not yet developed. There are prototypes in field studies in Arizona. One of the two largest buyers in the world is in Victoria, BC.

Comfrey Leaf. Requires sophisticated drying systems. Abbottsford has Hop Kilns, A Binder Dryer, and numerous Grain Bins. The University of British Columbia has a prototype microwave dryer for plywood (which would work). Markets include most overseas feedlots, as a Comfrey/Alfalfa cube. Cubing WILL NOT dry Comfrey.

Golden Seal Root. A forest farming venture for the North woods. This should include Oregon Grape Root, Wild Indigo Root, Bloodroot, and Mandrake Root. Cascara segrada can be forest farmed with a 12 year rotation. Dehydrated Mushrooms are probably the single most money from wildcrafting, and Matzutaki can be enhanced (18X) with forest farming protocols

Milk Thistle Seed. Bulgarian crops usually contain larvae, and require gassing prior to entry into North America. New sources are sought, although the overall market is not yet developed.

Ginkgo biloba Leaf. Used to grow wild in BC, now mostly "petrified" in and around the Columbia River Gorge (Vantage). Might cultivate quite well in some of the more mild parts of Western BC.

Valerian Root, Feverfew, and St. John’s Wort are now oversupplied, and hold no open futures (at the moment). I suspect some of this will change as the pharmaceutical trade "finally wakes up" and realizes that their industry is not trendy, but MUST deliver chemistry (for re-purchase).

I don’t think anyone will be able to sell Echinacea purpurea this year, and most have gone into now overproducing E. angustifolia (in the next two years). St. John’s Wort markets are off 2/3 of what they were last year. And while that market is still "open" with a modest annual growth curve, many new growers plan to show crops next years. Experienced farmers should be thinking ahead, not following "The Blue Concourse," like K-Mart shoppers.

The basic first rule in this arena for new farming ventures is diversification, not bulk production. Black Cohosh and new flavoring materials (like Licorice Mint) have good futures, but again, what happens if they are also overproduced? Some products, like Sesame Seed and Coriander still hold shortages and are safe bets. Comfrey leaf, as a animal food supplement, is wide open for future possibilities.

Again, however, who’s doing your marketing for when you plan to show production? A good business plan always includes a marketing plan. That plan should also always include current and future projections, needs, and growth statements that make sense. A business plan is only as good as what is put into it. It’s not what you do, but how you do it that leads toward true goals.

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