A species of ginseng originating in the Northwest region of the Brazilian state of Paraná has gained international fame and stirred up the interest of Europeans and Asians. The plant, Pfaffia glomerata, was discovered in the 1980s, in the floodplains of the Paraná River and on islands in the region of the municipality of Querência do Norte. Researchers from the Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Company (EMATER) and from local universities confirmed the presence of active ingredients that led it to be called “ginseng from Paraná.”
“In recent years, a group of family farmers has been formed in the municipality and most of them have already taken several courses in areas such as property management and others”, explains the manager of the Rural Union of Querência do Norte, Sidneis José dos Santos. “They are very active and are managing to expand the cultivation and gain new customers around the world,” he adds.
To organize the production and commercialization, ginseng growers formed the Brazilian Ginseng Small Farmers Association (ASPAG). Since then, they bring together the production resulting from the 27 associates responsible for the 20 hectares dedicated to the plant. In 2019-20, they harvested 300 tonnes of ginseng. The price paid to producers ranges from US$ 0.37 to US$ 0.55 per kilo.
Misael Jefferson Nobre, producer and president of ASPAG, says that ginseng has become an important source of income. “Furthermore, it does not use chemical fertilizer or pesticides and is a product aimed at small producers. If you take the profitability of properties in this profile, no other crop guarantees an equivalent profit margin,” guarantees Nobre.
When it was discovered, Querência do Norte ginseng began to be harvested in an extractive way, i.e., taken from nature without being cultivated. Over the years and with growing concern for environmental preservation, the plant began to be cultivated. In 2005, the producers organized a small municipal production chain with the help of ASPAG. This made the quality of the medicinal plant gain more visibility and reach the attention of international buyers.
Today, almost all the ginseng in the region is shipped abroad. Japan, France, and China dispute the municipality’s production. Locals have had to refuse offers from other countries due to the non-availability of stock. To ensure access to production and streamline processing, Chinese entrepreneurs decided to invest in the region and set up a ginseng processing factory. The idea is to foster the expansion of the area destined for ginseng crops. According to Nobre, in the coming years cultivation can go from the current 20 hectares to more than 2 thousand hectares.