Getting Better Prices
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Donna Gibbs
Posted on: November 5, 1998

My brother in law digs and dries herbs for a living and he was wondering how to go about selling his herbs at a better price than he is getting now. Can you give me any information on how to go about selling his roots -- ginseng, black cohosh, etc.? He constantly asks me to go on the internet and find out something but I really don’t know how except to ask you since you are the one who came up on the

Marketing herbs is always a mystery, even to me. Looking for better prices often means he is selling to a local broker, rather than some of the larger buyers. Quantity is always a factor. If you are selling only several pounds, from a weekend’s effort, then you are limited to the local buyer who is going to give you minimum wage for your effort.

If you can harvest more than 400 pounds, then you may be able to sell to a regional wholesaler, one who might give you 20% more for your effort. Again, when you can harvest 2,000 pounds (or more), then you can go direct to the primary buyers. Those different lists are given in my book The Potential of Herbs As A Cash Crop.

I wanted to go into the pharmaceutical markets and upgrade my mailing list. I did this by going into the People’s Yellow Pages, a specific search engine dedicated to specific types of businesses. It take time identifying the various categories, but the list I received for just the State of California was more than 250 potential buyers. Of course, marketing Ginseng and Black Cohosh Root is limited to specific users, not all of which may buy at the time you want to sell.

I guess I need more information on what he is currently receiving for his effort. It may be that the price he receives is "as good as it gets," realizing that most wildcrafters are not earning more than $150/day with most crops. The larger buyers have set up controls to limit this aspect, and thereby assure themselves of better profits.

When competition existed for these roots and barks, wages were more evenly normalized and foraging was a good way to make a living. As many went out of business, the larger wildcraft buyers took control and limited those incomes for their own profits. As a forager, he might try to organize the local and regional harvests to somehow leverage better pricing to the forager.

Also, adding some form of process (i.e. C/S) to the root might also add to whom he might be able to sell his efforts. Many of the Regional Wholesale houses will pay extra not to have to then mill it into a form that is required for marketing. Beyond that, finding a broker to represent his efforts may be the only way he can be assured he is receiving a fair income price for his efforts.

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