Sales of a Peruvian root called “maca” have boomed due to an unprecedented Chinese demand. The root is said to boost fertility, increase energy, and even have an aphrodisiac effect. Despite the growth in sales, some worry that demand is leading to smuggling. CCTV America’s Dan Collyns reported the story from Junin, Peru.

Not much grows on the high, treeless plains 4,000 meters above sea level except mostly potatoes and maca, a root vegetable from the Andes mountains.

The root has been used locally for thousands of years and is said to have energy-giving properties that Chinese buyers are now coveting. Demand has transformed growers including Pilar Condor.

“It’s given us a better quality of life,” Condor said. “There’s work for everyone, and more income for every household, you hardly see unemployed people anymore, it’s generating work and income.”

Pilar said the maca farmers had felt exploited by buyers in the past, but are now welcoming Chinese buyers, who pay in cash and well above the normal price.

Pilar said she made more than $100,000 last year and the profits will go towards a new house and a new maca harvest.

“Now, we, as Maca producers, don’t have contracts with any companies. We sell to the highest bidder,” Condor said. “With these prices the producers benefit most. Before it was the intermediaries and the companies who profited and we were left at the bottom.”

Maca is now worth up to 10 times what it cost a few years ago, and the coveted black variety fetches around 25 times what it used to, more than $100 per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds.

The maca root resembles a shriveled turnip, and has been used as “Andean Viagra” since before the time of the Incas.

“The appearance of Chinese buyers is both good and bad. It’s good in the sense that they’ve discovered its benefits,” Luis Castillo, general manager of maca farm Koken Peru said. “Now, the way they’re selling it is bad, taking it out as contraband without giving it its added value. That’s what we’ve been promoting in this company for more than 20 years.”

The growing popularity of the root has led Peruvian officials to worry that they could lose control over the traditional crop. Officials said Peru’s maca is being used to improve lesser-quality maca grown in China.

“The state needs to protect the seeds and the raw material so it can’t be easily taken abroad,” Jorge Tejeda of regional agricultural agency said. “But the state is weak; as a consequence, it will be our producers and their families who will suffer in the future.”

Peru hopes to reach an agreement with China on maca imports, said Andres Valladolid, President of Peru’s National Commission Against Biopiracy.

“We want to promote the right use of maca, if we can both agree to improve the investigation of maca and to regulate access to it, then it would be good for both countries,” he said.

Fuente: (http://www.cctv-america.com/2015/01/09/perus-maca-farmers-fear-chinese-demand-for-andean-viagra-will-cause-smuggling)