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Of Herbs and Spices.
Spices: Markets remained rather dull and featureless in the first quarter of 1991. White Pepper continued its 18-month-long decline. Reports from origin indicate a carryover of 10,000 tons with a 35,000 -ton crop coming on line in July. Since annual world demand for this commodity is about 30,000 tons total, it doesn't take Ivan Boesky to figure out that there is an over supply problem here, so prices are predicted to continue very low for some time. Attempted reestablishment of exporting cartels in Indonesia for Cassia, Nutmeg, and Mace seem to have failed, at least for the present, and prices in these items continue low. Spices from Turkey, such as Oregano, Laurel, and Cumin, while having enjoyed a brief runup during the Gulf War, are offered at reduced prices for new crop shipments in August. Other spices all continue drab and altogether too cheap to attract much speculative interest.

Botanical: Hibiscus is the item of main interest this year. Defaults from China on new crop shipments have created a shortage of anything but one- and two-year-old hibiscus(at pretty high prices). Thailand is no help since they seem to be sold out of new crop material, too. This is another situation of a commodity that was too cheap for too long. The low prices of the last few years have led to reduced availability and inevitably much higher prices which will surely lead once again to oversupply...and so it goes.

Another problem item this year will be Rosehips. Much acreage in Chile has been lost to industrialization and fire, so exporters are scrambling for raw material to meet commitments for teabag cut and shells. If potpourri demand for quantities of whole rosehips surfaces, supply will not be there to meet it.

Speaking of Potpourri, apparently this industry is coming back strongly this year, but deaPrices for good quality materials have risen sharply since spring, but supply is running dry and pipelines from origins are slow to refill and even slower to arrive. Exporters, badly burned in 1989 and 90 when demand dropped to almost zero, are reluctant so demand may soon outstrip supply. This will certainly be an interesting year for potpourri items!

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Peter Landes