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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 806: International Symposium on Underutilized Plants for Food Security, Nutrition, Income and Sustainable Development

FADS OR FIXTURES? THE CHALLENGES OF ESTABLISHING NOVEL PLANT PRODUCTS AS ENDURING FIXTURES IN A CROWDED MARKET

Author:   G. le Breton
Keywords:   markets, underutilised plants, commercialisation, public-private partnership, Africa
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.806.53
Abstract:
The global market for natural products is experiencing robust and steady growth. As the market has grown, the business environment has also become more competitive. This has fuelled research into the launch of new plant products from previously underutilised species, creating potential income and sustainable development benefits. However, private sector investors have to follow strict commercial imperatives in the launch of new products and will not hesitate to drop a product if there is a business case for doing so. This can have substantially negative impacts on producer communities. This paper describes an approach towards the commercialisation of new plant products that combines private sector business interests with public sector development goals. This approach has been pioneered by PhytoTrade Africa, a trade association representing producers of natural ingredients derived from plant species native to Southern Africa. The paper documents PhytoTrade Africa’s learning process prior to its establishment, covering a series of lessons gleaned from the experiences of other commercialisation efforts (including Piper methysticum, Hypoxis hemerocallidea, Morinda citrifolia, Malpighia glabra, and Caralluma fimbriata). It goes on to describe the elements of PhytoTrade Africa’s approach that were introduced in response to these lessons, and that have enabled it to avoid the pitfalls of previous commercialisation initiatives. PhytoTrade Africa’s focal species include Trichilia emetica, Adansonia digitata, and Schinziophyton rautanenii. The conclusion is that there are important opportunities to harness the power of the private sector to achieve development goals, but this requires a careful balance of public and private sector collaboration.

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