The Guardian: Peruvian maca market at risk


Maca has been smuggled and successfully grown in China, according to Peruvian authorities.

Despite measures to counter the illegal trade between Chinese business men and Peruvian farmers of Junin, China has begun to grow the native Peruvian superfood, maca root.

The Guardian published an article today demonstrating the continued effects of the illegal maca trade between China and Peru. Also known as biopiracy, the maca root has been smuggled out of its native Peru to be grown in China. Days after the news came in of the disastrous effects it was having on the farmers and the market, the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism announced Peruvian and Chinese authorities would be working together to end the malpractice.

In 2014, Peru lost nearly half of its maca production (2,000 tonnes out of 4,000) to smuggling, that mostly made its way across the vast Pacific and into China.

President of Peru’s National Commission Against Biopiracy, Andres Valladolid told the Guardian just what he believes is going on. Clearly, there’s biopiracy; we know this when a product is being sown outside the country of origin and there’s no access contract with anyone.”

Peru is facing losing maca to the hundreds of cases of biopiracy currently taking place. About 250 patent applications were recorded just last year, with more than half of them coming from China, and less being investigated. The United States recorded a patent as well for extract of maca compounds in 2001 under the name MacaPure which Peru continues to counter.

What it comes down to is, Peruvian farmers who were not making money with the contracts held with mostly American and Japanese countries, were making more money selling their raw maca to Chinese businessmen.

Maca farmer of Junin, Pilar Condor told The Guardian how the trade worked for her. “Now, we maca producers don’t have contracts with any companies. With these prices, the producers benefit most,” she says. “Before, it was the middlemen and the companies who profited and we were left at the bottom.”

So, many farmers in Junin saw incredible improvements in quality of life. Condor built a home and bought a new truck. However, there are underlying drawbacks.

Peru is losing its rights as the place of origin of the product and the quadrupled demand quadrupled the amount of land sown with maca. The soil is depleting and the Peruvian market is forecasting to go along with it.

“The Chinese market demand is immense. That’s why the Chinese have come here to buy practically all they can,” Valladolid says. “It’s broken the normal trade dynamic. There will be problems of overproduction and scarcity. We don’t know where it will end.”The maca growing Andes of Peru has been emulated in the Yunnan province, of China