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Herbs And The Commodities Market.

After a rather dull summer of generally low prices and featureless markets, spices are showing some signs of life, as they almost inevitably do sooner or later. Our pick hits from two Market Reports ago -- Nutmeg and Mace -- are doing very nicely with Nutmeg up about 30% and Mace, unaccountably, up about 300%. Preliminary reports from Turkey concerning Oregano and Laurel are very bullish since the government has reduced the number of licenses granted to cut Laurel from the trees or to pick Sage and Oregano from the mountains due to a large number of "unusually big" forest fires. We can only assume that the "usual" forest fires are smaller.

Egyptian herbs like Basil, Marjoram, and the Mints continue pretty cheap and constant threats by Egyptian producers to cut back acreage in, what surely must be, minimally profitable items seem empty in light of at-least-normal crop sizes. Someday these commodities will surely go up, but herbs in general, are not good items for long-term speculation since they deteriorate badly over time.

There are rumors of Allspice (Pimento) price rises, but the Mexican and Central American crops are just beginning, so nothing is certain. Black and White Pepper continue to climb slowly, with Black now well over $1.00 and White much higher. But Brazil will have a crop to market soon, followed by the large Indian Black Pepper crop in November/December, so the price rise may not stick into the new year. As usual, stay tuned . . . .


The big news here is the return of Potpourri. Certainly, there has been consolidation in the sheer number of manufacturers, but those that are left seem to be doing good amounts of business. This market has matured a good deal in the last few years and both shippers overseas and manufacturers domestically have become much more professional. While prices are still very reasonable, shortages loom as we rapidly approach the main manufacturing season.

Eastern Europe limps along supplying our main requirements of medicinal botanicals. Many new "private" companies have arisen in formerly Communist countries, and, quite frankly, many of these haven't a clue as to quality, price, or even identification of these complex items. Caution is advised. Most botanicals are available from reliable, tested sources at reasonable cost and almost all will be obtainable from, organized sources in the fall. Incidentally, word today from an unconfirmed Mexican source is that Spirulina should be available from there around end September again.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Peter Landes