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Vietnam relies on China for medicinal herbs amid limited domestic supplies

By Bach Duong   June 6, 2016 | 03:02 pm GMT+7
Vietnam relies on China for medicinal herbs amid limited domestic supplies

Vietnam used to be a major exporter of medicinal herbs in the 60s and 70s, but now the country has to rely on China for sources of these traditional remedies.

Data from Vietnam Customs showed that Vietnam spent $113 million on imports of medicinal herbs in the first four months of this year, and 62 percent of that figure went to China, up 22.1 percent from the same period last year.

In 2015, China also accounted for nearly 60 percent of Vietnam’s imports of medical herbs, equivalent to $198 million.

One manager of a company involved in the sector told VnEpxress: “Small pharmaceutical companies can’t afford to invest in producing these materials, so they resort to external sources. Only a few big companies are able to supply medicinal herbs for the domestic market.”

The manager added that Chinese herbs attract many Vietnamese traders due to their low prices, even though some of them are grown in Vietnam.

These materials pose massive health risks once they are used to produce drugs. Tests by the National Institute of Drug Quality Control found that out of 400 samples of Chinese herbs, more than 60 percent did not meet standards for active ingredients, while 20 percent were mixed with sand, cement or other toxic substances.

Vietnam consumes about 60,000 tons of medicinal herbs each year. The country has some plantations, but they are small-scale and cannot meet domestic demand.