Industrial Growers of Feverfew?
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Dimitri Moreels
Posted on: January 27, 2005

Our company, Phusys International BV is specialised in the worldwide supply of raw botanical materials intended for the phytopharmaceutical industry. We focus on African Products. At this particular time, one of our Asian parties is requesting feverfew. To be honest I have no experience with that product, but it seems that you are an expert. Therefore these questions:

Do you know industrial growers of feverfew? I’ve read that feverfew is also to be found in Kenya? I’m only aware of the pyrethrum species that is used as an insecticide? Does that pyrethrum have the same amounts of active parthenolides? What is the actual market price for bulk feverfew? I’ve heard of a company in Israel, called Galilee Herbal Remedies which produced feverfew with high levels of active parthenolides. Unfortunately, I can’t manage to contact them. Do you know what happened or do you have any contact numbers? How much dried leaves can be filled in a 20’ container?

First, please excuse the delay in responding to your query. I came back from a long trip, caught up with my most urgent e-mails, and then (later) found this unanswered question. Again, please excuse me for this getting by my response. Let’s see if I can’t be a bit more helpful.

Feverfew is a Chrysanthemum, and very easily grown almost anywhere. I have grown it more than 16 years, putting it up like a hay crop. There are substantial productions in most countries, including the US and Canada. Feverfew is used for migraine, as a smooth-muscle relaxant for upper back muscles (clinical studies). Kenya grows a VERY important type of Chrysanthemum called pyrethrum, an organic insecticide. Pyrethrum cannot be used as a substitute for feverfew.

I have exported feverfew to China, so I happen to know some shipping dimensions. A 20-foot cargo box can hold upward of 16,000 lbs., as 110-lb bales, pallet loaded. Price for purchase on a year-to-year basis can be as low as $1.20/lb. [all figures USD, freight extra]. Rail to and through Canada to Europe via land-bridge (Thunder Bay) would be less than $0.24/lb., best guess without confirmation. Inexpensive.

The product is NOT sold as ‘leaf’, but as ‘herb’, where the stem is still in the herbaceous stage. That means the farmer can cut twice in one season, put it up as a hay crop, and bale it for pallet loading. That gives you more parthenolides for your buck than any other way to buy it. Separating the leaf is about double the cost, plus the losses, plus the labor (and profit variance).

Here is some actual production figures, to show scope and capacity:

1997, first cut, 25,000 lbs. total, ca. 0.48% parthenolides Price: $1.00/lb.

1997, 30,000 lbs. COG [certified organically grown], 0.44% parthenolides Price: $1.20/lb.

1998, first cut, 30,000 lbs. total, ca. 0.40% parthenolides Price: $1.20/lb.

1998, 22,000 lbs. COG, ca. 0.26% parthenolides Price: $1.45/lb.

1999, first cut, 25,000 lbs., est. ca. 0.6%+ parthenolides Price: $1.40/lb.

1999, June 30th cut, 7,000 lbs. COG, ca. 0.6%+ parthenolides Price: $1.65/lb.

Both 1997 and 1998 2nd cutting were sold upon harvests, because 2nd cutting generally has a higher % parthenolides, due to less stem (leaf). Overall, these harvests are still the very best I have ever seen from anywhere in the world. You can tell by the smell and color. The "plate" (or "flake") sent as a sample was taken from a typical bale, so you can see how little foreign material (grasses) are in the product. It’s about a clean as it can get from commercial cultivations.

Since this terrible period in market lulls, prices have dropped significantly. Right now, feverfew herb is only available on year-end contract. Everything is sold on contract now, with very few inventories grown for spec. If you want it from us, you must put the fields in now (for a September first harvest). From then on, the fields get better and then taper off on parthenolides.

[Galilee Herbal used to grow a high quality feverfew product but is no longer doing so as far as we know. We are not sure if they are still in business as we have not heard from them for several years. Another grower of industrial feverfew is AgroPharm Technologies in Canada, but we are not sure if they are growing feverfew for bulk herb market, as they have been focussed on their own finished products. But AgroPharm may be willing to license their technology and lines. See -- ed.]

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