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American Ginseng Root Smugglers Caught Off China Shores
American Ginseng Root Smugglers Caught Off China Shores

A speedboat smuggling 1,800 kg of "high-quality" American ginseng roots and heading for the Chinese mainland was intercepted by marine police on August 24, 2005.

According to an article in The Standard of Hong Kong, the police pursued a convoy of 7 speedboats and intercepted one carrying 36 drums full of the highly prized American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L., Araliaceae). The value of the roots was estimated at $2.4 million in Hong Kong dollars (equivalent to about $300,000 in US dollars).

Although the article does not specifically describe the ginseng, presumably the roots were wild American roots, the value of which is several hundred dollars per pound. (Cultivated American ginseng sells for less than $20 US per pound in the United States and is now grown in China, where its price is probably lower.)

There is a fairly high incentive for the smugglers to try to slip the ginseng into mainland China, as the quantity of ginseng seized by the police would have been subject to a tax of $580,000 (HK) on the mainland, equivalent to about $75,000 (US).

According to the article, smugglers recently have shifted from electrical appliances and automobiles to high-cost seafood and herbs. Superintendent Jackie Ling, the head of the Police's Small Boat Division, was reported to have said that the task of intercepting smugglers is difficult because the smugglers often employ sampans as lookouts.

—Mark Blumenthal


Ng D. Sea chase nets $2.4m ginseng haul. The Standard (Hong Kong). August 26, 2005. Available at: Accessed August 28, 2005.