With the seasonal flu infection rate showing no sign of abating, prices of popular Chinese medicinal herbs have soared, sparking widespread complaints among traders, sources have said.
Common medicinal herbs used to treat colds and coughs, such as isatis root, dahurian angelica root and Asarum heterotripides, have seen their prices rise by about 30 percent, while the prices of some valuable herbs, like caterpillar fungus, have also jumped, industry sources said.
For instance, the price of isatis root, often used in Chinese medicine to help banish colds, has increased to NT$90 per kilo from NT$67 in October, while that of dahurian angelica root has risen from NT$94 to NT$120 per kilo, said Lee Wei-chu (李威著), deputy general manager of Sheng Chang Pharmaceutical Co.
Hsu Wu-ching (許武慶), general manager of Meditalent Enterprises, which produces nasal sprays made from Chinese medicinal herbs, also said that a continued increase in the prices of the herbs has put greater pressure on the company.
“Prices of these materials have risen by at least 20 percent and it is really difficult for us to make a profit despite the stronger market,” he said.
Lin Tien-shu (林天樹), former chairman of the National Union of Chinese Medicine Associations, said prices for some common ingredients have soared beyond imagination.
Lin said the market had gone mad with the price of the -Szechuan-fritillary bulb, used to cure coughs, now costing thousands of NT dollars per kilo.
Both Lee and Lin ascribed the phenomenon to speculation because of climate change and to a greater appetite for high-end Chinese medicinal herbs in China, where wealthy people are keen to purchase expensive herbs like the caterpillar fungus.
As Taiwanese traders rely heavily on imports from China to meet local demand, some are considering growing the medicinal herbs in northern Thailand and Myanmar to diversify the supply chains and lower production costs.
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