Ginseng demand pushes US farmer into prominence

Global Business

The idea of America exporting ginseng to China – may sound a bit like selling hay to a farmer.

The root has been used in China for thousands of years as a natural remedy and even to increase virility.

But the North American variety has been consumed in China for 300 years – valued for its strong flavor and intensity.

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

Paul Hsu had trained to be a social worker in the U.S. until a sample of ginseng he sent his sick mother back in Taiwan took him down a very different path.

“My father said ‘Your mother’s health problems have almost gone after using the 3lb of ginseng after one year.’ That made a believer out of me,” Paul Hsu, President, Hsu’s Ginseng Enterprises said.

A believer who had to master cultivating this ancient plant and financially commit to a crop that requires up to $80,000 investment per hectare. Paul now has about 140 hectares around Wausau, Wisconsin, where nearly all of America’s ginseng is grown.

He began exporting to China as the country’s appetite for traditional herbal remedies expanded with its economic boom.

While Paul’s cultivated ginseng can sell for up to $40 a kilogram, about $80 per pound, the real money is in the wild and much scarcer variety he’s transplanted from the woods to this site. And if ginseng’s restorative properties are undeniable, a healthy bottom line also helps.