By Wezi Tjaronda
Namibia’s hoodia industry plans to export its first consignment of hoodia powder in early 2008.
The chairman of Hoodia Growers Association of Namibia (HOGRAN), Dougal Bassingwaighte, told New Era yesterday that a handful of growers would export hundreds of kilogrammes of hoodia powder.
“This will be the first export to check where the market is. We want to sell as soon as possible so we can assure our members that there is a market,” he said.
Hoodia is a succulent plant that grows in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. One of its species, Hoodia Gorgonii had its appetite suppressant elements isolated in 1977 as P57 and is made into dietary pills that are in high demand in the US and Europe.
Namibian exports come at a time when the hype on the international market has gone down because of counterfeit products.
Earlier in February, there were fears that products masquerading as hoodia would take the market if natural range land states of hoodia – Namibia, South Africa and Botswana – did not put their house in order.
Products adulterated with sawdust, leaves and other filers were put on the market for as little as US$50 per kg, while genuine hoodia would cost up to US$350 per kg.
The local industry has been told that the US – the biggest market for the product – has banned hoodia imports until they finalise regulations that would protect their consumers.
Steve Carr, Senior Agricultural Researcher at the Botanical Gardens said the ban, although not confirmed, was a concern to everyone.
It is, however, not known whether the European market would follow suit.
Yesterday, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy Ray Castillo said he was not aware of the ban.
Castillo said as an endangered plant species listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), trade in hoodia was being regulated.
“Exporters need an import permit from the US, a protected plant permit and CITES permit from Namibia and products must enter the US through a designated port,” said Castillo.
The hoodia industry started organising itself last year to have an industry whose material is genuine and ensure sustainable growth.
“Namibia is doing things the right way and in a sustainable approach,” said Carr.
Bassingwaighte said more exports are expected towards end 2008 and early 2009 when more farmers will start harvesting the plant.
Increase in exports, he said, will depend on a Hogran/Namibia National Framers Union (NNFU) project that applied for funding from the National Planning Commission’s Rural Poverty Reduction Programme to assist hundreds of growers in both the Hardap and Karas regions.
The focus of the project is to assist communal farmers and other small operators who would produce hoodia in their backyards, for instance, in smaller towns and villages of the two regions.
However, the money for the project, whose growing season starts in October, has not been released yet.