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International trade in NWFPs is composed of imports and exports of numerous products at different stages of processing. Some of the products are unprocessed goods, while others have undergone various degrees of processing.

At least 150 NWFPs, including 26 essential oils are of major significance in international trade. In addition, a large number of botanicals (ranging between 4,000 to 6,000), enter international markets. A summary of NWFPs of commercial significance is given in Tab.1

Most NWFPs are traded in rather small quantities, but some such as ginseng roots, natural honey, walnuts, gum turpentine, rosin, rattan and gum arabic do reach substantial levels. Over US$ 380 million of ginseng, for example, is imported annually; while natural rubber imports reach well over US$ 1,000 million, although there is obviously some question as to whether to classify this as a NWFP or an agricultural crop since most is grown in agricultural plantations.

Pine nuts (seeds of Pinus gerardiana, P. pinea, P. korainsis and P. cambra) are an important NWFP with a growing and high-value market, particularly in countries with a health food awareness. Seeds of Chalghoza pine (P. gerardiana) are produced and exported by Afghanistan and Pakistan. China is the world's largest producer and exporter of Pinus korainsis seeds - one of the bigger-seeded species- and seeds of Pinus cambra - the Siberian equivalent to the edible European nut species (P. pinea) (Richardson, 1993). Spain and Portugal are the major producers and exporters of pignolia nuts (P. pinea).

Similarly black mushroom or morels, belonging to genus Morchella, are another product of considerable economic and commercial significance. The morels are prized for culinary uses, particularly as a gourmet food. Morels grow naturally in temperate forests of many European countries, USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Turkey, Nepal, and Bhutan. Total world production is estimated to be approximately 150 tonnes. Pakistan and India are the main producing countries, each producing about 50 tonnes of dry morels annually (equivalent to fresh morels of 500 tonnes), all of which is exported. Total world trade in morels is of the order of US$ 50 to 60 million.

Like morels, truffles are also highly favoured by gourmets in various European countries and USA. France and Italy are the main producers. Whereas production in France was around 1,000 tonnes, 95 years ago, it had fallen to 20 tonnes in 1988/. In Spain, about 15 to 30 tonnes of truffles are collected each year, of which the bulk is exported to France (FAO/ECE, 1988). Truffles are exported in fresh as well as preserved form. In 1989, USA imported 5.4 tonnes of fresh or chilled truffles, mainly from Italy and France, valuing US$ 1.477 million (c&f) or US$ 273 per kg/.

Table 1. List of NWFPs of commercial significance
Food products  1. Nuts. Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pignolia nuts, malva nut, 
walnuts and chestnuts. 
2. Fruits. Jujube, sapodilla and Ginkgo. 
3. Edible fungi. Morels, truffles and pine mushrooms. 
4. Vegetables. Bamboo shoots, osmunds, reindeer moss 
and palm hearts. 
5. Starches. Sago. 
6. Birds' nests. 
7. Oils. Shea nuts, babassu oil,sal or tengkawang or 
illipe oil. 
8. Maple sugar. 

II  Spices, condiments and culinary herbs  1. Nutmeg and mace. 
2. Cinnamon and cassia. 
3. Cardamom. 
4. Galanga 
5. Allspice 
6. Caraway 
7. Bay leaves 
8. Oregano, etc. 

III  Industrial plant oils and waxes  Tung oil, neem oil, jojoba oil, kemiri or candle or 
lumbang oil, akar wangi, babassu, oiticica and kapok oils. 
Carnauba wax. 
IV  Plant gums  1. Gums for food uses. Gum arabic, tragacanth, karaya 
and carob gums. 
2. Technological grade gums. Talha and combretum gums. 

Natural pigments  Annatto seeds, logwood, indigo. 
VI  Oleoresins  1. Pine oleoresin 
2. Copal, Damar, Gamboge, Benzoin gum, Dragon's blood 
(Benjamin), and Copaiba oil. 
3. Amber 

VII  Fibres and flosses  1. Fibres. Bamboo, rattan, xateattap, aren, osier, raffia, 
toquilla straw products, cork, esparto, Erica and other 
broom grasses. 
2. Flosses. Kapok or silk cotton. 

VIII  Vegetable tanning materials  Quebracho, mimosa, chestnut and catha/cutch. 
IX  Latex  Natural rubber, gutta percha, jelutong, sorva and chicle. 
Insect products  1. Natural honey. 
2. Beeswax. 
3. Lac and lac-dye. 
4. Silk. Mulberry and non-mulberry silks 
5. Cochineal 
6. Aleppo galls 
7. Kermes 

XI  Incense woods  Sandalwood, gharu or aloewood. 
XII  Essential oils   
XIII  Plant insecticides  Pyrethrum, Derris, Medang and Peuak Bong. 
XIV  Medicinal plants   
XV  Wild plants   
XVI  Animals and animals' products  Ivory, trophies, bones, feathers, maleo eggs, 
butterflies, live animals and birds. 
XVII  Miscellaneous products  1. Bidi leaves. 
2. Soap berries (soap nut). 
3. Quillaia bark. 
4. Betel and cola nuts. 
5. Chewing sticks. 
6. Lacquer. 
7. Dom nuts or ivory nuts. 

Source: Iqbal (1993).

Bamboo shoots represent an expanding and fashionable export market. China (Taiwan) alone exports over US$ 20 million annually. In China, tender shoots of about 100 species are edible; their production averaging one million tonnes annually (Sulthoni, 1989). Thailand exported 31,730 tonnes of canned bamboo shoots during 1989, valued at 460.62 million bahts/. The bulk of the exports went to USA and Japan, followed by UK, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, France and Republic of Korea. Japan is the main market for bamboo shoots in Asia. Small quantities of bamboo shoots are also exported from Indonesia.

Sago is a starch rich food obtained from a fresh water palm (Metroxylon spp.). Indonesia is the major producing and exporting country. During 1991, it exported 10,107.7 tonnes of sago flour and meal to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, valuing US$ 2.32 million (fob). Malaysia, also produces small volumes.

Illipe nuts are oil-bearing seeds of sal trees (Shorea spp. and Madhuca spp.) The oil resembles butter in its physico-chemical properties. Indonesia dominates world trade in illipe nuts, exporting about 15,000 tonnes annually, worth about US$ 8 million.

Salanganes' or birds' nests are built by two species of cave dwelling swiftlets, Collocalia fuciphaga and C. maxima in Malaysia and Thailand, which are collected for sale to a Chinese market at home and abroad. Malaysia is the major producer and exporter of birds' nests. Malaysian exports during 1991 totalled 18.6 tonnes, mainly to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China (Taiwan), valuing Malaysian $ 2.93 million.

Spices, condiments and culinary herbs are another important group of NWFPs which constitute a significant component of world trade. Indonesia is the largest world producer of nutmeg and mace and accounts for three-quarters of world production and export. Grenada is the second largest producer and exporter. Indonesia produced 15,800 tonnes of nutmeg during 1990, whereas Grenada produced 2,700 tonnes of nutmeg and 200 tonnes of mace, in 1991/.

World trade in cinnamon is between 7,500 to 10,000 tonnes annually. Sri Lanka contributes 80% to 90%, most of the remaining balance coming from Seychelles and Madagascar (Smith, 1986). The world trade in cassia is of the order of 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes annually, of which Indonesia accounts for two-thirds and China most of the remainder. Minor producers include Viet Nam and India. About 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of cassia bark are exported from Viet Nam annually (de Beer, 1993). The EC, USA and Japan are the major markets.

Gum arabic, an exudate of Acacia senegal, is the most widely used and traded plant gum. Current worldwide trade is around 25,000 tonnes, of which about 20,000 tonnes comes from Sudan alone. The remaining 5,000 tonnes originates from other African nations, notably from Nigeria/. The USA is the largest single market, accounting for 25% of the world market. The EC, Switzerland and Scandinavia collectively account for 40% of the world imports, and about 10% is channelled into Japanese markets.

Gum tragacanth is the second most important commercial gum and is produced by several shrubby plants of the genus Astragalus, growing from Pakistan to Greece, particularly in Iran and Turkey. Iran and Turkey are major exporters. Total world trade is around 400 tonnes. The EC, USA, Japan and former USSR are the major importing regions.

Gum karaya, also known as Indian tragacanth, is obtained almost exclusively from Indian plantations of Sterculia spp. India is the only regular producer, overwhelmingly dominating international trade in the gum. Total world production is about 5,500 tonnes per annum.

Carob or locust bean gum is obtained from the endosperm of the beans of carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), which grows in abundance in the mediterranean region. Total world exports of locust bean gum are currently about 12,000 tonnes per annum, of which over 80% is attributable to Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Gum Talha is a water soluble gum derived from a number of Acacia species like A. seyal, A. sieberana, A. hockii, A. ehrenbergiana and A. karroo. Production remains fairly constant at around 6,000 tonnes per annum (Anderson, 1993). About 3,000 to 5,000 tonnes are exported annually, mainly from Sudan.

Combretum gum is obtained from Combretum nigricans, occurring throughout tropical West Africa, particularly in northern Nigeria, Mali and Niger.

Annatto is a reddish-orange colorant, called bixin, derived from seeds of achiote tree (Bixa orellana). Average annual production is in the range of 10,000 to 11,000 tonnes. Peru is the largest producer, accounting for 32% of the world's total, followed by Kenya and Brazil.

World production of oleoresins (naval stores) from all the sources, is almost stable, ranging between 1.1 and 1.2 million tonnes annually. China and Indonesia dominate the world's production. China has emerged as the world's largest producer of rosin, with annual production level of nearly 400,000 tonnes (Richardson, 1993). The world's annual trade in gum rosin is around 330,000 tonnes. Portugal and China with total annual exports of around 200,000 tonnes, dominate this trade, and China accounts for about one-third of total world's production and exports. The list of countries importing naval store products is quite long ? well over 100; Japan, Germany, UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium/Luxembourg, Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Switzerland, South Africa, Zaire and Nigeria being the major importers. Japan is the largest importer. About 50% of the total exports of gum rosin from China enter Japanese markets.

The average value of the world's trade in rattan is US$ 66 million. Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam and China, are the main origins. Small quantities also originate from Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines. Italy, USA, Spain, France, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany are the major destinations.

Average value of world trade in bamboo is of the order of US$ 36.2 million/. China and Thailand are the main origins; Malaysia, Myanmar, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Bangladesh being minor exporters. France, Germany and the Netherlands are the main markets.

Kapok is a mass of silky fibres that clothe the seeds of ceiba tree (Bombax ceiba) and is used as a filling for mattresses, life preservers, and sleeping bags and as insulation. The tree grows in many South Asian countries, but Thailand and Indonesia are the main suppliers in the world trade. Japan, China, EC and USA are the major markets. During 1992 total value of world trade was of the order of US$ 11 million/, of which about 66% was contributed by Thailand and 16% by Indonesia.

Spain, France, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are the main cork producing countries. Total world production is estimated to be 250,000 tonnes per annum, of which about 50% is produced in Portugal, 25% in Spain, and remaining 25% in Italy, France, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Morocco's cork oak forests are spread over an area of 100,000 ha. Cork oak cultivation and processing is a very important industry for Moroccan economy, and cork is one of the country's main export earners. Portugal, Spain and Morocco are the major exporting countries; EC and USA being major markets.

Thailand and India dominate world trade in shellac, each exporting, on an average, about 6,000 tonnes per annum. Vietnamese annual exports average around 300 tonnes. China produces about 4,000 tonnes, but export statistics are not available. Shellac is exported to about 45 countries, but Germany, Italy, Egypt, Indonesia and USA are the major markets.

World trade in natural honey is of the order of 300,000 tonnes, valued at US$ 300 million. Former USSR, China, USA, Mexico, and Turkey are the major producing countries. Germany, USA, UK and Japan are the major world markets. Whereas treating wild honey as a NWFP would be easily understandable, inclusion of cultured honey as a NWFP could be questioned. Nevertheless, because many plants growing in forests and a number of semi-wild trees constitute an important nectar and pollen source for foraging bees at least a part of cultured honey should be considered as a NWFP. Actual apportionment, however, remains difficult as trade statistics lumps honey from all sources together.

Total value of international trade in insect waxes ranges between US$ 23 to 26 million. The bulk of it is contributed by beeswax, which like natural honey, originates from wild as well cultured sources. China, United Republic of Tanzania, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, USA and Ethiopia are the main origins; collectively accounting for 70% of the total trade volume. Australia, France, Chile, UK, Dominican Republic and New Zealand are some of the minor origins.

World trade in essential oils is of the order of US$ 1 billion, including both the wild as well as cultivated sources. China, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Brazil are the major suppliers of some of the oils. The EC, USA and Japan are the principal import markets, accounting for 72% of the total world imports.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's leading producers of natural rubber; collectively accounting for 47% of the world's total output of 5.54 million tonnes in 1992/. Sri Lanka, India, Viet Nam, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, China and Myanmar are other producers. Entire production of natural rubber in these countries, however, comes from plantations. Separate statistics on rubber extracted from wild sources, however, is not available. The EC, USA and Japan are the major markets.

Gutta percha is a tough plastic-like substance from latex of several Malaysian trees of genera Payena and Palaquium that resembles rubber but contains more resin and is used especially as insulation and in dentistry. Malaysia and Indonesia are major producers. Small quantities are also produced in Thailand. Total value of the world trade in gutta percha and other similar lattices is of the order of US$ 27 million. Japan, EC, USA, Republic of Korea, China and Australia are the major markets.

Total value of world's trade in tannin extracts of vegetable origin (HS 3201) was of the order of US$ 102.7, 102.5, 116.7 and 123.3 million during 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991/, respectively, which shows a slightly rising trend. During 1991, 50% of the world's supplies of vegetable tannin extracts originated from Argentina (34%) and Brazil (16%). The USA, Italy, former USSR and Japan are the major markets.

Out of the long list of medicinal plants, about 4,000 to 6,000 botanicals are of commercial importance. Total world trade in 1992 in medicinal plants was of the magnitude of US$ 171 million. China is the biggest producer as well as exporter of medicinal plants, accounting for 30% of total world trade (by value) in 1991, followed by the Republic of Korea, USA, India and Chile. Singapore and Hong Kong are the main re-exporters in Asia. Japan, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Malaysia, Spain and UK are the major markets. Hamburg is the world trade centre. About 53 countries supply medicinal plants to Germany, of which important ones are India, Argentina, former Yugoslavia, Greece, China, Poland, Egypt, Hungary, former Czechoslovakia, Zaire, Albania, the Netherlands and France (Iqbal, 1993).


The total value of world trade in NWFPs is of the order of US$ 11 billion/, of which about 60% is imported by EC, USA and Japan (Appendix I). General direction of trade is from developing to developed countries (Iqbal, 1993). Information on major suppliers and markets for some of the important NWFPs is summarized in Table 2.

The list of countries contributing to the world trade in NWFPs is quite diverse, but the forests of Southeast Asia have traditionally remained the major source for many of these. There has been a significant trade in furs and skins, fruits, resins (naval stores, copal), fungi, wild honey, medicines, aphrodisiacs, oil (Cassia, Citronella), sandalwood, bamboo and rattan ware.

Recently, NWFP trade has reached new heights in China. Probably no country in the world processes as many wild products and there is growing interest worldwide in its natural foodstuffs and medicines. Consequently, it dominates world's trade. India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Brazil are other major suppliers of NWFPs to the world markets.

Table 2. Trade direction for major NWFPs
Main origins 
Main markets 
Brazil nuts  Brazil, Bolivia and Peru  USA, UK, Germany, Australia and Canada 
Pine nuts  China, Afghanistan and Pakistan  Middle Eastern countries 
Pignolia nuts  Spain, Portugal  USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan and EC 
Walnuts  China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan  EC, Japan, Canada and Switzerland 
Morels  Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.  France, Switzerland and Germany. 
Truffles  France, Italy  USA 
Pine mushrooms  Chile  USA, France, Peru, Holland, Switzerland. 
Bamboo shoots  China, Thailand and Indonesia  USA, Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, France and Rep. of Korea. 
Sago  Indonesia, Malaysia  Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore 
Shea nuts (Karite nuts)  Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and Central African Republic  Japan, Sweden and EC. 
Birds' nests  Malaysia  Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China (Taiwan). 
Nutmeg and mace  Indonesia and Grenada.  USA, EC and Japan. 
Cinnamon and Cassia  Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Madagascar  USA, EC and Japan. 
Gum Arabic  Sudan and Nigeria.  USA, EC (UK and Germany), Switzerland Scandinavia and Japan 
Gum tragacanth  Iran and Turkey  EC, USA, Japan and former USSR. 
Gum Karaya  India  USA, Japan, France, Germany, UK, Belgium, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. 
Carob gum  Spain, Italy and Portugal  Western Europe, USA and Japan. 
Annatto  Peru, Kenya and Brazil  USA, EC and Japan 
Gum rosin  China, Indonesia, Portugal  Japan, Germany, UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy, etc. 
Rattan  Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam and China  Italy, USA, Spain, France, Egypt, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Thailand. 
Bamboo  China, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Rep. of Korea, Indonesia, Viet Nam, the Philippines and Bangladesh.  France, Germany and the Netherlands. 
Cork  Portugal, Spain and Morocco  EC countries. 
Lac  India and Thailand  Germany, Egypt, Indonesia and the USA. 
Natural honey  Former USSR, China, USA, Mexico and Turkey  Germany, USA, UK and Japan 
Beeswax  China, former USSR, Morocco, Tanzania, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands  EC (Germany, France, Italy and UK) 
Mulberry and non-mulberry silk  China, India and Brazil  Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Rep. of Korea and Hong Kong. 
Cochineal  Peru and Canary Islands  EC, the USA and Japan.
Liquorice roots  China, Pakistan, Syria, former USSR, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran.  USA, Japan and EC. 
Ginseng roots  Japan, China, Singapore and EC.  USA, Rep. of Korea, Canada and China 
Essential oil  China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.  EC, USA and Japan. 
Medicinal plants  China, Rep. of Korea, USA, India, Chile, Egypt, Argentina, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Zaire, former Czechoslovakia, and Albania.  Japan, USA, Germany, France, Italy, Malaysia, Spain and UK. 
Bidi leaves  India  Pakistan and Sri Lanka 
Source: Iqbal (1993).


3/. Financial Times, 30 June 1988.
4/. The USA Import Statistics, 1989
5/. Thailand Foreing Agriculture Trade Statistics, Office of Agriculture Economics,Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Bangkok.
6/. Fruit and Tropical Products, 1992
7/. Chemical Marketing Reporter, 15 February 1993; pp 18-19
8/. COMTRADE data base
9/. UNCTAD data base
10/. Ruibber Satistical Bulletin; 47(7). International Rubber Study Group.
11/. COMTRADE data base
12/. UNCTAD data base. The figures are, however, indicative only and are to beused with caution.

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