Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hawthorn Producers Working to Develop New Markets

The Naturally Grown Herb & Spice Producers Cooperative (HerbPro), with funding from the British Columbia Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative, is working to enhance the sales of raw hawthorn ingredients and value-added products through natural health products (NHP) practitioners (those using natural health materials as complementary or alternative medicines).  This work will support value chain development for agroforestry industry advancement in BC.

There is a significant market challenge for BC agroforestry enterprises involved in the production of herbs and botanicals originating from low-cost, commodity-driven imports from Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.  Most Canadian producers of herbs and botanicals have focused on broker/distributor and direct sales, primarily targeted at export markets (Europe and Asia) or small direct-to-consumer sales (via farm gate and e-commerce).  However, despite a growing domestic retail market for NHPs, the sector has experienced decreased grower participation over the past 15 years.  This is primarily attributed to the lack of perceived market opportunities and low returns on raw material sales, particularly in the commodity marketplace through brokers and distributors where producers may receive 10% or less of the wholesale prices.

However, unique opportunities exist in the largely untapped, NHP practitioner market, particularly for high quality fresh or frozen raw ingredients such as hawthorn. Through a detailed analyses of this sales channel, development work led by HerbPro will provide much needed Canadian data on a new market opportunity for all BC hawthorn producers.  In addition, it will explore the potential of value-chain development with NHP practitioners. NHP manufacturers and practitioners are increasingly looking towards local supplies for raw herb materials where they can be assured that suppliers have supply chain control systems in place and can provide a safe supply of accurately identified herbs and botanicals. Together with leveraging the 'buy local' and food security movements, and a forward-thinking approach linking environmental sustainability with health, BC agroforestry producers are well positioned to add value in the practitioner sales channel supply chain and expand their sales opportunities and profitability. 

Incorporated in 2004, HerbPro grew out of a rural community economic development initiative in the BC Rockies.  The purpose of HerbPro is to develop herbal opportunities that balance economic, social and environmental concerns for HerbPro cooperative membership.  In 2005, HerbPro established the Hawthorn Agroforestry Demonstration Farm Trial to determine best practices for hawthorn production management based on the agroforestry land management principles of alley cropping.  This system promotes conservation and sustainable management practices and encourages biodiversity in the ecosystem, while providing a means to diversify farm revenues through intercrop production, and generation of revenue streams from short- and long-term harvested crops.


Funding for this work has been provided through the BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative (AGF1101)