About Selling Ginseng
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: No Name Given
Posted on: December 9, 1998

Could you tell me how to find out about selling ginseng and how much it is going for at this time?

The American ginseng markets went sideways this last Spring due to large cultivations in British Columbia (Okanagans). Because of the large influx of Chinese into the region, some pseudo-farmers (bankers) had decided to put in hundreds of acres of American Ginseng several years ago, without any regard to what it might do to the marketplace. Of course with first harvests, large surpluses were then reported this last year.

As a result, a number of smaller ginseng growers in Wisconsin, and surrounding States, went bankrupt. They were unable to give away their products at any price, with most sales being below production costs. Actual sales were so varied that I can not with any degree of accuracy quote current pricing for American Ginseng.

This is typically what happens when banks and/or bankers get involved with agriculture. The strategy is to create surpluses and shortages, while large money then waits out the death of smaller ventures. This eliminates competition, small sales to smaller end users, and puts control of that product into the hands of banks (as a commodity).

I predict that this will also happen with Echinaceas and several other large-sale cash crops, like St. John’s Wort and May Pop (Passion Flower). I plan to help strategies specific "game plans" at the Acres Conference with a 2-day seminar on "Getting Started." My first recommendation is to cultivate these types of botanicals as niche markets, with diversification being the key word.

American Ginseng has never been given the respect it deserved as a product from North America until now. Why? The Chinese would never have given us the control of this type of crop. However, when they moved over to North America, due to the closing of Hong Kong, this control was then taken over by B.C. banks (also probably Chinese).

Overall, American Ginsengs are superior to all other forms of Ginseng (Chinese and Korean) in both chemistry and form. This is not a crop, however, that I would recommend now for the small woodlot owner or herb farm. Other root crops which still might have some leverage in marketing might include Golden Seal, Bloodroot, and Wild Indigo.

I believe that the pricing of American Ginseng will remain unstable for the next three years. Again, this is somewhat of a ploy to drive out the smaller productions. The only way to compete now would be to market roots as a cooperative, and/or sell it as a Cottage Industry (making something with it), and then marketing it directly to distributors.

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