Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ginseng buyer vanishes

Hang Fat of Hong Kong, the biggest buyer of Ontario-grown ginseng, has vanished.

Payments to growers stopped this year, but nobody’s talking to reporters about what’s happening.

Ontario Farmer placed many calls to the association and its president, but has had no responses.

Reporter Katia Dmitrieve went to the annual meeting of the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association at Delhi and reports in Bloomberg News that nobody was talking to reporters there, either, but they were huddling in clutches talking to each other.

Demand for ginseng has been strong, resulting in huge profits from the record 3,350 hectares in production this year.

That’s double the area in production five years ago.

Many people have made small fortunes on the crop over the last few years; if they’re worried that demand and prices might collapse now, they’re not showing it.

Ginseng production began in the 1980s after the collapse of the supply management system run by the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers Marketing Board.

That set off a search for alternative crops. Potatoes, peanuts, various vegetables and some exotic crops are all being grown where tobacco once grew.

Ginseng requires shade, so growers stretch black netting over posts. It takes several years for a newly-planted crop to reach harvesting maturity, so capital investments are more than $50,000 per hectare.

There is no crop insurance.