Huge Influx of Chinese Capital Seriously Destabilizes Maca Trade in Peru
by Hank Schultz

Huge influx of Chinese capital coupled with threat of violence seriously destabilizes maca trade in Peru, expert says

Soaring demand from China and an extremely steep rise in prices has distorted the market for the Peruvian botanical maca to the point where non Chinese buyers have been all but priced out of the trade. The influx of cash has brought violence, too, with at least one trader killed in the fields, according to longtime maca buyer Chris Kilham.

“This year crews of Chinese buyers moved in including members of organized crime from Hong Kong.  People have been shot dead.  It has become one of those huge gold rush type of things,” Kilham told NutraIngredients-USA.

The market for maca has been stable for many years, Kilham said.  The botanical has been used in Andean cultures to enhance energy and mental clarity.  It is also claimed to act as an aphrodisiac.

As prices rise, chaos does, too. Kilham, who bills himself as The Medicine Hunter, said before this year there has been slowly increasing demand for the ingredient. Kilham said he has been working with maca producers in Peru since the late 1990s, when price per kilo for maca was about $1.50 per kilo of dried root, rising to $14 to $18 per kilo more recently.  But that was before the Chinese buyers moved in in a big way, he said.  This destabilized the market not only through the rapid influx of capital but also through the threat of violence.  Kilham said that after he left the country in the last few days he heard through sources that two Chinese traders had been shot, one of whom died quickly and the other of whom was left in serious condition with his ultimate fate unknown.  He said he saw an ambulance speeding off toward Lima at the time and the place of the alleged shootings.

November 2014