By Will Handley
Chinese are accused of “biopiracy” which, if true, could decimate the Maca industry in Peru
The maca root and its benefits have long been used by Peruvians. The native Andean people were the first to exploit the benefits of this tuber nearly 2000 years ago. Primarily used to help with fertility, anemia, tiredness and tuberculosis, studies have shown but not proven that maca can also improve libido and depression with no side effects.
It grows at an extreme height of 13,000 feet in the Andean Mountains of Peru and Bolivia and demand and sales in the UK have rocketed, thanks in part to one of our newest celebrity blogger chef, Ella Woodward, who uses maca in her recipes. Miss Woodward was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome four years ago, was bed-ridden and had to become a vegan. This major life change forced her to seek out a healthier diet and this, combined with her love and skill in cooking, started her path as a blogger chef. Her recipes with strange sounding ingredients became an instant hit and she has not long published her first cook book, Deliciously Ella, which became an instant bestseller.
With so many benefits, the maca root is attracting a lot of international attention, especially by the Chinese whose demand has outgrown their supply. They are buying as much as they can get their hands on at inflated prices which makes great business for the Peruvian growers. Unfortunately, it has been suggested by the local authorities that tonnes of unprocessed maca has been smuggled out of Peru which is illegal, and seeds have mysteriously found their way into China.
The growers are happy dealing with the Chinese and their over generous payments, but long term this will damage the overall maca industry in Peru. A notoriously weak government just watches and does nothing to rectify this growing problem. With China being a huge investor in Peru, this maybe helps turning a blind eye all the easier.
Peru has the enviable reputation of not protecting what is theirs and be it with maca and China and Pisco with Chile they have only themselves to blame. It probably won’t be long before the label on your packet of powdered maca will say, ”Made in China.”