Wisconsin ginseng is a premium brand and we are working hard to use it to build awareness of our agricultural diversity.”
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The most sought-after ginseng is wild ginseng, which is very expensive, according to Hack. On the Amazon website on Wednesday, four ounces of premium Wisconsin wild ginseng sold for $163.99.
For cultivated ginseng, Hack said Wisconsin farmers received on average $78 a pound last fall.
He noted that the Badger state produced about 700,000 pounds of ginseng last year or about 95 percent of the cultivated ginseng in the US. Approximately 80 percent of Wisconsin’s crop was exported to China and other Asian nations. That leaves about 140,000 pounds of genuine Wisconsin ginseng for distribution in the US.
Wisconsin’s ginseng exports to China totaled about $10 million in 2014. Exports to Hong Kong were $15.6 million according to Lu.
Many stores in the US sell ginseng in packages labeled as being from Wisconsin. “There is no way we could have produced the entire ginseng in this country that has a Wisconsin label on it,” Hack said. He believes that most of the ginseng labeled as being from Wisconsin was actually grown in Canada.
The Wisconsin Ginseng Board established an official seal that could be stamped only on board-verified ginseng products in the 1990s. “We discovered that the seal was being copied and used without our permission,” said Hack.
To remedy the situation, Hack said seven distributors worldwide including two in the US are authorized to use the seal. To help with counterfeiting in China, the Wisconsin board signed a 10-year deal in 2013 to export $200 million of ginseng to China with Beijing Tong Ren Tang Health-Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, an affiliate of the centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine brand Tong Ren Tang.
Tong Ren Tang, founded in 1669, is one of the bestknown brands in China and was among the first to be designated a Chinese cultural heritage brand by the government.
“The biggest challenge for us is to assure consumers whether they are in the US, China or any other country that the ginseng they are purchasing with a label that says it was grown in Wisconsin was in fact harvested here. Hopefully the seal and the limited number of authorized distributors will accomplish that,” Hack said.
Jen Pino-Gallagher of the state department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection, said ginseng gives them an opportunity to let everyone know that Wisconsin agriculture is more than just a dairy and cheese producer.
“We had over $3.6 billion worth of agricultural exports last year,” she said. “Wisconsin ginseng is a premium brand and we are working hard to use it to build awareness of our agricultural diversity.”