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7. ANALYSIS OF MAIN MARKETING FACTORS


7.1 Product description
7.2 Channels of distribution
7.3 Promotion
7.4 Prices


The informal nature of the trade in medicinal plants influences the main marketing factors. There has been limited investment in the development of trade. Consequently, the industry is generally dominated by simple technologies, with little infrastructure specifically developed for the medicinal plant trade. The improvisation of available resources characterizes this industry.

7.1 Product description


7.1.1 Types of products
7.1.2 Processing of products
7.1.3 Grades, qualities and certification
7.1.4 Packaging


A wide range of wild harvested medicinal plants are traded in the market. The plants are traded either in the raw form or with limited processing, and with few controls regarding quality. Products are packaged using recycled waste materials. While the processing and packaging may not be in a sophisticated form, the specificity of use of plants and the mixing of various plants for particular treatments is highly developed.

7.1.1 Types of products

Products are traded as parts of a single species or as mixtures of plant parts from many species. Over 400 species of plants are regularly traded in the markets within KwaZulu-Natal [Cunningham 1988].

Photo 7: Fresh herbs, lianas, bark and roots are important for a number of treatments, and are frequently in short supply due to the inefficient marketing system.

Photo 8: A stall specializing in trading fresh and finely processed mixtures. These products can be sold dry for future use or sold for immediate consumption, mixed with water in recycled liquor bottles.

Street traders and gatherers identified 70 plant products which they considered important trade products18 (listed in Table 7.1). Three of the products were popular mixtures of different plant parts from at least 18 plant species, while the remaining products were not mixtures but were sold as individual species. The plant products/parts sold and their relative proportions traded in the street markets are illustrated in Table 7.2.

18 The survey of perspectives regarding important trade items must be considered a snap-shot of the market as surveys were only carried out once for each of the two street markets in Durban. Regular monitoring would provide a more accurate assessment of importance. Access to resources is variable, and this is likely to determine the importance of plants to traders. Should some plant be relatively scarce, then it is likely that it would loose its importance for a trader.

Photo 9: A popular indigenous medicine, called 'ntelezi', is being prepared on the street, and consists of a mixture of leaves, rhizomes and bulbs. This mixture is in high demand and consequently large volumes are prepared and traded daily. Such mixtures must be sold quickly otherwise they spoil in the intense heat or frequent rain.

The plants can be used individually or in sophisticated mixtures depending on the illness or condition to be treated. Some mixtures are relatively well-known recipes, such as 'ntelezi' and 'ubulawu', and are prepared for self-medication while other mixtures are complex and secret, and are only prepared and prescribed by indigenous healers. Up to 11 different plant species may be used for these more sophisticated mixtures. Plants can be used for their chemical or magical properties or for a combination of both properties.

Wholesalers sell a smaller range of plant products, with frequent use of substitute products from exotic species or from synthetic products.

A major pharmaceutical company anticipates trading ten species of plants.

Table 7.1: The plants most frequently demanded by consumers [ranked according to the number of traders who identified the plants as important, and the vegetation type (biome) where the plants are found] (Grassland and woodlands = G, Forests = F)

IMPORTANT SPECIES FOR TRADE AS IDENTIFIED BY STREET TRADERS

NUMBER

RANK

BOTANICAL NAME

ZULU NAME

PART USED

BIOME

NUMBER OF TRADERS

1

1

Scilla natalensis

inguduza

bulb

G

47

2

2

Alepidea amatymbica

ikhathazo

root

G

40

3

2

Ocotea bullata

unukani

bark

F

40

4

3

Warburgia salutaris

isibhaha

bark

G/F

37

5

4

Eucomis autumnalis

umathunga

bulb

G

35

6

5

Curtisia dentata

umlahleni

bark

F

33

7

6

Haworthia limifolia

umathithibala

whole plant

G

29

8

7

Boweia volubilis

igibisila

bulb

G

28

9

8

Siphonochilus aethiopicus

isiphephetho, indungulu

root

G/F

19

10

9

Secamone gerrardii

iphophoma

root

F

5

11

10

Clivia miniata

umayime

whole plant

F

4

12

10

Dioscorea dregeana

isidakwa

tuber

F

4

13

10

Dioscorea sylvatica

ingwevu, ufudu - intelezi, ugebeleweni

tuber

G

4

14

10

Sclerocarya birrea

umganu

bark

G

4

15

10

Mixture of plants - Adenia gummifera, Foeniculum vulgare, Berkheya spp., Clivia spp., Drimea sp., Urginea sp., Disocorea spp., Eriospermum cooperi, Cephalaria natalensis, Kalanchoe spp.

intelezi

mix of many plant parts


4

16

11

Acacia xanthophloea

umkhanyakude

bark

G

3

17

11

Adenia gummifera

impindamshaye

stem

F

3

18

11

Burchelia bubalina

umqonga

root

F

3

19

11

Callilepis laureola

impila

root

G

3

20

11

Harpephyllum caffrum

umgwenya

bark

F

3

21

11

Maytenus sp.

ubangalala

roots

F

3

22

11

Ornithogalum longibracteutum

umababaza

bulb

F

3

23

12

Albizia adianthifolia

umgadenkawu

bark

F

2

24

12

Cassine papillosa

usehlulamanye

bark

F

2

25

12

Cassine transvaalensis

ingwavuma

bark

G

2

26

12

Celosia trigyna

uvelabahleke

whole plant

G

2

27

12

Dietes sp.

isiqunga

root

F

2

28

12

Encephalartos spp.

isigqiki semikhovu

stem

F

2

29

12

Euclea divinorum

umshekisane

root

G

2

30

12

Gunnera sp.

igobhe, ugobo

root

G

2

31

12

Haemanthus albiflos

uzaneke

bulb

F

2

32

12

Hippobromus pauciflorus

uqhume

root

F

2

33

12

Jasminum angulare

umalala

stem and leaves

G

2

34

12

Mimusops caffra, Sideroxylon inerme

amasethole

bark

F

2

35

12

Ochna natalitia

umadlozane

bark

F

2

36

12

Mixture of plants - Maesa lanceolata, Hippobromus paucifloris, Helinus sp., Secamone sp., Bulbine latifolia, Synaptolepis kirkii

ubulawu



2

37

13

Acacia caffra

umtholo

root

G

1

38

13

Acridocarpus natalitius

umabophe

root

F

1

39

13

Albizia suluensis

inyazangoma

bark

F

1

40

13

Albuca fastigiata

umaphiphintelezi

bulb

G

1

41

13

Balanities maughamii

umgobandlovu

bark

G/F

1

42

13

Capparis brassii

qwaningi

stem

G/F

1

43

13

Cryptocarya myrtifolia

umkhondweni

bark

F

1

44

13

Ekebergia capensis

mnyamathi

bark

F

1

45

13

Gasteria croucheri

impundu

whole plant

F

1

46

13

Gladiolus sp.

umlunge

bulb

G

1

47

13

Helichrysum spp.

imphepho

whole plant

G

1

48

13

Helinus integrifolius

ubhubhubhu

stem

F

1

49

13

Heteropyxis natalensis

uhuze

bark

G

1

50

13

Hydnora africana

umafumbuka, umavumbuka

root

G

1

51

13

Hypericum aethiopicum

unsukumbili

whole plant

G

1

52

13

Hypoxis latifolia

ilabatheka

bulb

G

1

53

13

Kniphofia spp.

icacane

bulb

G

1

54

13

Lycopodium clavatum

inwele

whole plant

F

1

55

13

Macaranga capensis

umpumelelo

bark

F

1

56

13

Maesa lanceolata

uguqa, nhlanhlemhlophe

roots and bark

F

1

57

13

Momordica foetida

intshungu

leaves and stem

G/F

1

58

13

Polygala hottentotta

uzekane

whole plant

G

1

59

13

Protoasparagus sp.

isigobo

root

G

1

60

13

Pulicaria scabra

isithaphuka

whole plant

G

1

61

13

Sansevieria aethiopica

intelezi

root

G

1

62

13

Schotia brachypetala

umgxamu

bark

G

1

63

13

Stangeria eriopus

imfingo

tuber

F

1

64

13

Turbina oblongata

ubhoqo

tuber

G

1

65

13

Turraea obtusifolia

inswazi, uswazi

root

F

1

66

13

Turraea floribunda

uvuma

root

F

1

67

13

Typha latifolia

ibhuma

root

G

1

68

13

Urginea altissima

umahlokolothi

bulb

G

1

69

13

Vernonia neocorymbosa

uhlunguhlungu

leaves and stem

G

1

70

13

Mixture of plants - Cardiospermum sp. and other unknown species

uzifozonke



1

Table 7.2: Plant products/part sold in the street markets

Plant parts traded

Relative proportion of the market

Form in which the product is sold

Preferred characteristics/qualities of the products

Bark

27%

Chunks (30 cm - 10 cm long 10 cm -3 cm wide), chopped, or ground to a powder (<1 mm)

Thick bark originating from the main trunk of old trees. Age of the harvested product is not critical.

Roots

27%

Whole sections (40 cm - 10 cm long), chopped (10 mm - 5 mm long), or ground to a powder (<1 mm)

Roots which are mature but which can be easily chopped. Freshness is more important in roots.

Bulbs

14%

Whole (15 cm - 2,5 cm in diameter), sliced or chopped (2 cm - 5 mm)

The larger the bulbs the better. The outer covering should not be damaged.

Whole plants

13%

Live for planting or dried

The fresher the plants the better. The plants should be mature.

Leaves and stems

10%

Whole sections (40 cm - 10 cm long), chopped (10 mm - 5 mm long), or ground to a powder (<1 mm)

The fresher the leaves and stems the better. Younger stems are better and they should not be too woody.

Tubers

6%

Whole (40 cm - 10 cm in diameter), chunks of the tuber, slices or chopped (2 cm - 5 mm)

Tubers should be mature but not so large as to be unmanageable. Fresh tubers are preferred.

Mixtures of various plant species

4%

A range of plant parts usually chopped into 1 cm to 3 cm pieces and sold fresh (moist plant parts have not been dried), dried or bottled with various liquids.

Mixtures should be freshly prepared using plants which have the ideal characteristics indicated above.

7.1.2 Processing of products

The processing of materials generally commences with the plant gatherers removing any non-marketable material from the plant product during harvesting. Plants, such as Haworthia limifolia and Gasteria croucheri required live for the market are protected from heat and dehydration, and may be replanted at the homestead until marketed. Bark and roots are usually dried before transported to the market. Herbs, vines and grasses (and other small thin plants) are usually bound into bundles for sale.

The next phase of processing takes place within the street markets, traders' shops, healers' practices or in the wholesalers' warehouse. If plants are not sold whole or in part, then they are usually chopped into small pieces or can be further processed by grinding (see Table 7.2 for details). Plants are chopped with a cane knife (like a machete) and a piece of tree trunk as a block. Grinding is usually carried out with an effective but crudely fashioned pestle (a thick iron rod) and mortar (a thick metal pipe welded to a base plate).

Mixtures are also made at the various outlets, with the street traders making simple mixes such as intelezi, and healers making the most sophisticated mixtures19, involving chopped, ground and burnt material. Shops and wholesalers also make mixtures for retail and may add dye and other synthetic ingredients for special effects.

19 Mixtures produced by healers are generally secret, and this survey has made no attempt to investigate their contents. Good cooperation was received in the markets, particularly due to the absence of any investigation into the use and content of medicine mixes.

7.1.3 Grades, qualities and certification

The Medicines Control Council in South Africa has stringent regulations governing the trade in products registered or recognized as medicines [Folb pers. comm. 1997]. However, as indigenous medicines are not generally traded in formal markets, nor are they usually traded in packaging which claims to treat specific ailments, they have not been subject to any real control or certification. There are, however, some informal controls administered by the market players. For example, several shop traders and healers do not sell potentially lethal plants, such as Boweia or Callilepis, to consumers in a raw form.

Grading takes place in an informal manner in the markets. Different plants or their parts have 'deal' or preferred qualities which either make the product more saleable or achieve a higher price in the markets (see Table 7.2). Apart from bark products, old market material and damaged whole plants and bulbs do not sell well. In addition to the preferred characteristics, there are a few generic characteristics which are desired. It is preferred that plants are harvested from the wild as they are believed to have greater power than cultivated plants. This is more important to sangomas (diviners) than to inyangas (herbalists), as the natural environment is believed to increase the magical power of plants. Sangomas tend to require more magical properties in their practice than inyangas. However, it is important to note that should the preferred qualities not be available, then smaller, older, damaged or thinner materials are accepted.

7.1.4 Packaging

The products purchased from street traders, healers and shop traders are usually packaged in new or recycled plastic bags, old newspaper, magazine pages and an array of recycled liquor bottles. The type of package depends on the products and quantities purchased. Single items and small quantities purchased are wrapped in paper while large quantities or multiple items purchased are placed in plastic bags. Consequently, consumers tend to receive newspaper packaging while healers and traders tend to receive their goods in plastic packets. Liquid products are traded in recycled bottles, the size depending on the volume required.

Wholesale companies package their products in conventional commercial packaging, with paper bags, plastic bags, plastic bottles and cardboard boxes.

Large volumes of plants transported or purchased for resale within the informal trade, are usually packaged in recycled '50 kg' meal bags (with between a mass of 22 kg and 30 kg of plant products depending on the species). Smaller 30-kg bags are also used occasionally.

The market survey has indicated that healers' customers would prefer more modem and hygienically packaged medicines (98% of respondents) and that medicines should be certified by a healers' organization (99% of respondents).

While the demand for better packaging is strongly articulated by consumers interviewed, observations in the market indicate that there are consumers who prefer to buy products in an unprocessed form. High illiteracy levels are likely to result in consumers who prefer purchasing the product in an identifiable form or in a traditional market where they believe they would get the right treatment.

7.2 Channels of distribution


7.2.1 Channels of marketing
7.2.2 Channels of delivery


Medicinal plant products are distributed in a wide range of retail outlets, markets and locations. Markets are frequently associated with sites of informal trading and dense clusters of small shops located near public transport nodes. Retail outlets are usually associated with concentrations of consumers, either in residential areas or in 'downtown' commercial areas. The delivery of medicinal material follows established transport routes between rural and urban centres as the source of plant supply is closely associated with rural communities who regularly travel to urban centres for work, access to social services and convenient markets.

7.2.1 Channels of marketing


7.2.1.1 The gatherers and street traders
7.2.1.2 The indigenous healers
7.2.1.3 The shop traders
7.2.1.4 The wholesale/mail-order supplier
7.2.1.5 Major pharmaceutical companies


Consumers can purchase medicinal products directly from the people harvesting or from various intermediaries who would have purchased from gatherers or other intermediaries. In urban centres, such as Durban, most of the trade takes place through intermediaries, while in rural areas products are bought directly from the person who gathered the plants.

Of the material consumed in Durban (through self-medication and prescription), it is estimated that 61% of the products are purchased from healers (generally intermediaries), 22% from street traders (frequently direct sales), and 17% from shop traders (intermediaries). The quantities bought from wholesalers were not disclosed, but it is probably a small percentage of the overall trade.

Photo 10: A range of bark, roots, and bulbs displayed on the sidewalk for retailing to healers, retailers and consumers.

The main marketing channels within the medicinal plant trade in KwaZulu-Natal are:

· gatherers and street traders,
· indigenous healers,
· shop traders, and
· a wholesale company.

7.2.1.1 The gatherers and street traders

The people

Between 80% to 90% of the street traders are women, originating from communal areas throughout KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, and to a lesser degree other provinces in South Africa and from neighbouring states (especially Mozambique). Street traders visit the city for a few weeks at a time to trade their goods, and then to return to their rural homes with consumer goods purchased from their earnings in the market. Many traders live on the streets with their products for the duration of their stay in the city. Similarly, traders in rural markets are mostly women, who originate from the surrounding rural areas where plants are available20.

20 The rural traders and gatherers are a similar group to the street traders and gatherers, the only difference being that the rural traders sell their products in rural markets and not in the large urban centres. The general approach in these rural markets is for traders (mainly women) to take their products to market days, and then to return home at end of the trading day. These people trade in smaller volumes as they only trade for one day at a time. Market days are generally associated with state pension pay-out days. An important feeder market for Durban is the Mona market near Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This market may have between 50 to 100 people trading medicinal plants. The source of plants for this market is from the immediate region, southern Mozambique, southern Swaziland, and northern Free State province. The rural markets serves both local consumers and various traders, including healers, shop traders and street traders from a wider region. The numbers of rural traders in KwaZulu-Natal is unknown.

The location

The street traders in Durban are located in two main markets. The Ezimbuzini market is located in the periphery of a large black township (called Umlazi) and the Russel Street market is in the periphery of the Durban central business district. Russel Street is the larger market with 200-300 traders/ gatherers trading at any one time, and Ezimbuzini is a smaller market with 60-80 traders/gatherers in the market. These two markets are located at major transport nodes where commuters catch taxis or busses for intra- and inter-city destinations. There are numerous small street markets (of ten or less traders) in most towns in the province, generally located near public transport nodes.

In rural areas, informal markets are located at trading sites, such as cattle sale lots and administrative centres.

The number of traders

In Durban, it is estimated that there are between 7 000 to 8 000 gatherers that service the market, with between 400 and 500 people undertaking the street trade. These estimates could probably be doubled for the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The 26% and 31% of the street traders in Ezimbuzini and Russel Street markets respectively, were relatively permanent traders.

The retail infrastructure

At present the street markets in Durban are situated immediately adjacent to busy roads. Most traders simply trade their goods from the pavement or bare ground. Several traders have erected wood and tin huts for trading and storage purposes or plastic sheets are used to cover the products at night and from rain. Many of the traders sleep at the street stalls under plastic sheets. Rural markets are situated in convenient open areas associated with some form of commercial or administrative activity.

The clients

The street markets play both a local and regional retailing and wholesale role, which includes supplying wholesale products to healers and shops, and retail products to end consumers. Russel Street trades a large percentage of material to consumers, while Ezimbuzini trades a greater proportion to healers and shop traders. Buyers will buy en route to work, while at work or they make specific trips to the traders sites to make purchases. It is estimated that 1.8 million purchases21 are made in the Durban street markets per year.

21 This estimate is based on the quantities of plant material purchased by end consumers, traders and healers and the average mass of a purchase made by the respective buyers.

The products traded

Over 400 species are traded in these markets in both wholesale and retail form. Products are sold in both the whole form or in a semi-processed form, where products are chopped into small pieces. Simple well-known mixtures are also prepared and traded. The gatherers/street traders usually trade plant species which they are able to locate in the areas they are familiar with. Failing to obtain popular plants, gatherers may purchase plants from other gatherers to increase their range of products in the market.

The quantities traded

At Ezimbuzini there was ± 30 kg of plant material per trader on display, with ± 224 bags stored in the market, with an estimated average mass of 15 kg each. The total mass of plant products in the Ezimbuzini market was estimated to be ± 6.9 tonnes. In Ezimbuzini there are generally greater volumes on display and stored, than in Russel Street. The Ezimbuzini market is more inclined to wholesale plant products than Russel Street.

Russel Street had smaller quantities on display (± 10 kg), with an average of two sacks stored (± 30 kg) per trader. The total mass of material in the Russel Street market was estimated to be 13.5 tonnes. The Russel Street market functions largely as a chemist, selling small volumes to a large number of people. The average mass of a traded product was 217 g in the Russel Street market. The lower volumes of plants on display and stored per trader in Russel Street relative to Ezimbuzini, and the limited use of plastic bags and sacks for product packaging in Russel Street when compared to Ezimbuzini, further supports the notion that Russel Street acts largely as an outlet to end users and Ezimbuzini is more inclined to wholesale to intermediaries.

In terms of turnover, it is estimated that in Russel Street between 10 tonnes and 15 tonnes are traded weekly, and would amount to between 490 tonnes and 730 tonnes per annum. At Ezimbuzini, it is estimated that between 5 tonnes and 7 tonnes are traded weekly, with the annual trade estimated to be between 250 tonnes and 340 tonnes22. The street markets are estimated to trade some 66% of the total volume of plant material traded in Durban.

22 These estimates are based on the reported number of sacks traded per week in the markets. McKean pers. comm. 1996 estimates an average mass of 23.5 kg per sack of plant material being transported to the Durban markets. This estimate is based on a sample of 50 sacks containing 36 plant species.

The timing of sales

Trading on the street markets is most active at the end of the month, with a peak towards the Christmas break. The markets also increase in size towards the end of the month. In terms of weekly sales, markets are most active on Saturdays, Fridays, and Mondays. The most active trading activity took place between 10h00 and 16h00 during the day.

The timing of purchases or harvesting

There were no direct observations regarding the timing of harvesting, but it is probably most intensive during the early part of the month when there are less traders and consumers in the markets. Intra-market trading is likely to be most active after the end of the month, when traders are preparing to leave the market to head home.

The product suppliers

Approximately 30% of the street traders would obtain their products from gatherers, while the remaining traders gather plant material themselves.

The traders purchasing power

The mean monthly incomes for individual traders in Emzimbuzini and Russel Street are US$ 67 (R 300) and US$ 98 (R 440), respectively. While these incomes are low, relative to minimum wages, they do not seem to limit the ability of some street traders to purchase and resell popular plants. For example, in Russel Street, 51% of the traders had Warburgia salutaris in stock. However, only 6% of the traders reported that they collected this species, while 45% of the traders in the market indicated that they bought their stock.

7.2.1.2 The indigenous healers

The people

Indigenous healers are a diverse group of people from a wide background, including males, females, poorly educated, highly educated, wealthy and poor, urban and rural. The common factor amongst the healers is a calling from the Ancestors, which directs them to practise as either a herbalist (inyanga) or a diviner (insangoma).

The location

Healers' practices are located in areas where their clients work, live or travel, such as residential townships, commercial centres, rural homesteads and street markets. Practices tend to be located in the 'down market' commercial areas and in historically black townships. A large number of practices is located in homesteads, either rural or urban, given that a large number of healers practise part-time.

The number of healers

KwaZulu-Natal has a large number of healers in, with estimates varying between 7 600 and 15 60023. In Durban, it is estimated that there could be approximately 1 500 full-time healers practising.

23 The estimate made by Cunningham [1988] that some 15 600 healers were present in KwaZulu-Natal was based on a reported ratio between the number of healers and an associated population in Zimbabwe [Gelfand et al. 1985]. However, this market study found that there were considerable differences in the number of patients that a healer may see in a day, varying between an average of two patients in rural areas to an average often in urban areas. The number of healers, therefore, does not give an indication of the magnitude of the services provided by healers. Furthermore, the study was not able to obtain any membership list of healers' associations that would support the healers' reported membership numbers. Consequently, in order to make some quantitative assessment of the magnitude of traditional healing, the study used the consumers' annual visits to healers in conjunction with the average number of patients which a Durban and rural healer would see in a day, to provide an indication of the minimum number of healers (7 600).

The retail infrastructure

The retail or practice infrastructure varies according to the location of trading. In townships, practices tend to be in modest consulting rooms or within simple homesteads. Some of the more wealthy healers may have elaborate consulting rooms situated on their private property. In street markets, the practice may consist of a low table with chairs in the street or they may have a small shack where they practise. Rural healers tend to have a separate traditional hut as a consulting room, associated within the homestead. Practices may have a large number of both plants and dead animals on display.

The clients

The healers' clients are both consumers wanting to purchase a product without a prescription and patients requiring a consultation with a prescribed medicine. As many healers are located within residential areas, clients are attracted to purchase from them due to convenience. In addition, some consumers are reluctant to purchase medicine from the street markets for various reasons including:

· the 'unhealthy' way which medicine is placed on the streets,
· they may not wish to be seen buying indigenous medicine on the street,
· they may not have confidence in the street traders' ability to treat their illness, or
· they may have built up a patient/healer relationship with a healer which suited them more.

It is estimated that for Durban there are some 1.3 million healers' patients, accounting for approximately 4.3 million visits to healers per year. In KwaZulu-Natal, it is estimated that there are 3.8 million healers' patients, making a total of 12.5 million visits to healers a year.

The products traded

Plants are used to treat a range of ailments from typical everyday ailments like colds and backache, to psychological and socio-economic problems. As discussed previously, over 400 plant species are traded. However, as numerous healers' prescriptions involve the complex mixing of different species, up to 11 species in some products, there are probably many hundreds more products than species traded. These products range from simple raw products, for example whole plants, through to complex mixtures of ground and burnt plants. Animal products may also be added to such mixtures.

The quantities traded

Healers are estimated to trade over 900 tonnes of plant material per year in Durban. Products are traded in a range of quantities, from a teaspoon-full to a large shopping bag, depending on the client's needs.

The quantities demanded

Healers reported that they bought on average 7 bags of plant material per month, ranging between 1 and 16 bags. The average bag weighs 23.5 kg. Quantities demanded are probably greater than quantities traded as there is considerable wastage in the industry.

The timing of sales

As with the street traders, healers are most busy towards the end of the month, with a peak at the Christmas break. Healers report that they are relatively uniformly busy during the weekdays, but are busier on Saturdays. Unlike the street markets, healers are frequently busy from 07h30 in the morning. This may be due to the fact that many healers operate within the townships, consequently healers are immediately accessible to clients, unlike the city markets which are a time-consuming taxi journey away from the residential areas.

The timing of purchases

Healers report that they purchase materials whenever an important product is either finished or close to being sold out. They may therefore arrange for purchases to be made any time of the month. However, important items, such as Warburgia salutaris, may be stockpiled to ensure that a continuous supply is always available at the practice. However, apart from unplanned purchases of depleted essential plant products, there is a tendency for healers to make general stock purchases on Mondays.

Gatherers trading plants may also arrive at the healer's practice anytime during the month, but with a peak towards the end of the month.

The product suppliers

Healers purchase material from street markets, gatherers, and wholesale companies. Scarce species are usually bought from street markets as these markets have the greatest variety and the largest supply network of all suppliers. Healers also have gatherers which regularly supply their practices with raw materials. Healers in remote areas may also purchase certain materials from wholesale companies. Rural markets are also visited on occasions to obtain products which may not be available in the Durban markets.

The healers' purchasing power

The healers' reported incomes range between less than US$ 44 per month (less than R 200) to more than US$ 667 per month (more than R 3 000), with 61% of the healers reporting that they earned between US$ 44 (R 200) and US$ 222 (R 1 000) per month. These figures are probably underestimates of income and therefore purchasing power, as income is usually under-reported. Many urban healers have vehicles (including 4X4 pick-ups, with one healer reported to own his own light aircraft) showing that there is a wide range in purchasing power of this group. The majority of healers are not wealthy, and have limited economic power to develop their business.

7.2.1.3 The shop traders

The people

In the past shop traders were largely people of Asian-Indian descent. However, this is now changing with black shop owners entering the market. Indian traders do, however, make up the majority of shop owners at present. Many of the shops have been established for decades and are usually associated with a family tradition in the medicinal plant trade.

The location

Most medicine shops (usually referred to as muthi shops in South Africa, and pronounced mootee) are located in 'downtown' areas, close to transport nodes and areas where a large number of stores cater for the black consumer trade.

The number of shop traders

There were 51 shops trading in Durban and another 61 in the rest of KwaZulu-Natal [Cunningham 1988], with a total of 111 for the province. This estimate, while being nine years old, is probably a good reflection of the current number due to the lack of growth in the shop trade as a result of increasing competition from street traders.

The retail infrastructure

The shops are normally established within shopping centres, and consist of a shop with counters, extensive shelves to keep stacks of different plants, and a back-area where processing takes place. The shops have extensive displays of plant and animal products.

The clients

Shop clients are similar to the street and healers' clients, and are often people who do not wish to be seen buying medicines in public places. Healers also buy from shops, but in declining volumes due to a narrow product range relative to the street trade. The street trade is now more preferred by healers for purchases. A few of the shops act as wholesalers to other shop owners.

The Durban shops are estimated to serve some 2.7 million customers per annum (or approximately 53 000 customers per shop per year)24. The total for the province is unknown.

24 This may be an over-estimate given that bulk purchases are made by healers and that this estimate is based on end consumers' purchases.

The products traded

A wide range of medicinal products are traded, including raw materials, processed materials (such as chopped barks and standard mixes), and patent medicines. The different cultural backgrounds of the shop traders and clients reduces the range of ailments which the shop traders may treat. Most of the customers ask for a specific medicine by name.

The quantities traded

In the past, shop traders sold most of the 'unprescribed' plant medicines in Durban and in other urban centres. However, shop traders have now lost a significant proportion of their trade to street traders. It is estimated that the shop traders sell some 340 tonnes per year. The average mass of product units sold by the shop traders is 83 g, with an average of 1.5 items (or 127 g) bought per visit.

The timing of sales

Sales usually peak towards the end of the month in association with pay-day. Shop traders usually follow conventional trading hours, that is, between 08h00 and 17h00 on weekdays and between 08h00 and 13h00 on Saturday.

The timing of purchases

Shop traders reported that they replace stock as it runs out, but that stock purchases are frequently made on Mondays (as with the healers). Traders purchased products from gatherers hawking throughout the month, with a peak in quiet street trade periods, such as in poor weather and in the middle of the month.

The product suppliers

Shop traders purchase largely from street traders and gatherers. Some of the gatherers are hawkers, while others may have a direct association with the shop trader. Shop traders may also obtain material from a local wholesaler or from other shop traders. In Durban, there are two shop traders who were identified that also wholesaled to other shops. The 'wholesale' shop traders purchased materials from a range of sources, including shops in other provinces.

The traders' purchasing power

The shop traders indicated that their average turnover was US$ 3 100 (R 14 000) per month for plants traded. These traders therefore have significant purchasing power compared to the other traders in the industry.

7.2.1.4 The wholesale/mail-order supplier

The people

In KwaZulu-Natal there is one well-known wholesale/mail-order business operating and it is owned and run by a white family with Asian associates.

The location

The mail-order business has a warehouse in an industrial area of Pinetown, a satellite town in Durban.

The number of traders

Although there is only one wholesale/mail-order business operating permanently in the province, there are occasional reports of other small enterprises entering the mail-order market but with little permanence. There is at least one other large mail-order outlet at the national level, and is located in Johannesburg.

The retail infrastructure

The wholesale/mail-order business has a relatively large warehouse (some 20 x 30 metres), with processing and packaging equipment.

The clients

The wholesalers' clients are mostly medicine retailer shops, general wholesalers who trade to rural stores, indigenous healers and individual buyers. The most important clients are the shops and general wholesalers. The clients are from a wide geographic base, including most provinces in South Africa and Namibia.

The products traded

The company sells a wide range of products, including patent medicines, indigenous plants, various standard plant mixtures, ceremonial oils, powders, synthetic animal fats, charms, animal products, and incense. Scarce and perishable25 plants are not traded due to the problems of irregular supply and product decomposition, respectively.

25 Perishable plants refer to plants with fleshy parts that are consumed fresh and which therefore are not suited for storage for long periods.

The quantities demanded

The quantities of products traded are not known. However, from observations made of the stock and reported trade at the warehouse, it is thought that between 20 and 40 tonnes of plant material may be traded per year.

The timing of sales

The demand for plant material is reported to peak at the end of the month, and towards the end of the year.

The timing of purchases

Purchases are made when stocks are required, and this is likely to be made throughout the month with a peak after the end of the month.

The product suppliers

The wholesale/mail-order company obtains most of their supplies from Asian shop traders both in Durban and Gauteng.

The traders' purchasing power

The turnover in the wholesale company is not known, but they have significant purchasing power given the observed stocks and business infrastructure.

7.2.1.5 Major pharmaceutical companies

As there is considerable secrecy associated with the current production of medicines for the indigenous medicine market in South Africa, there is little information available. The drug companies are likely to be focusing on the upper end of the consumer market, where customers are willing to spend considerably more money for higher standard products. The companies are also likely to produce a narrow range of products which can be registered with the Medicines Control Council. Commercial growers who would guarantee specified supply conditions will largely supply materials.

These drug companies have enormous resources available to them given their major roles in the local and international pharmaceutical trade.

7.2.2 Channels of delivery


7.2.2.1 Delivery routes
7.2.2.2 Storage
7.2.2.3 Transport


Delivery of products takes place largely through an extensive network of individuals trading small volumes with other individuals, in an informal manner. While the volume of trade at an individual level is relatively small, great volumes are delivered, transported and stored at the industry level.

7.2.2.1 Delivery routes

There are seven major role players in the delivery of products to consumers, and include gatherers, street traders, rural traders, healers, medicine shops, wholesaler/mail-order, and general dealers (Figure 7.1). The healers trade the largest volume of products, being largely at the centre of the trade. In Durban, at least half of the plant products traded to consumers is via healers, with the remaining volume traded via other retailers. The healers also trade the greatest variety of products to consumers. The street traders and the shop traders, are the second most important traders in the industry. The healers, shop traders, and street traders and rural traders are the core delivery nodes in the industry. Gatherers are the first step in the delivery system, supplying to mainly the street and rural markets, the healers and the shop traders. These intermediaries, then trade extensively amongst themselves (see Figure 7.1), before finally selling to an end consumer. The wholesaler/mail-order company buys exclusively from shop traders, and they in turn may sell to general dealers, healers, shop traders and on a limited scale to end consumers.

Figure 7.1: Distribution channels and products distributed: General patterns

Some delivery routes may only involve one intermediary before the consumer, such as gatherers selling to the healer who in turn sells to the consumer. On the other hand, some routes may involve up to six intermediaries before the sale to the consumer takes place. These long routes usually involve the sale of packaged products which have been sold by the wholesaler/mail-order company. The majority of routes are likely to include two or three intermediaries, generally including rural traders, street traders, shop traders and healers.

The wholesaler/mail-order company and general dealer only buy and sell one category of products. Healers will buy and sell the greatest variety of products, and are the only market players which trade in complex prescribed mixtures. A detailed description of delivery patterns and the products traded is illustrated in Figure 7.1.

In summary, all plants originate from rural areas and may be delivered in three distinct routes. Firstly, a moderate range of products can be supplied to rural consumers via a few intermediaries such as rural markets and healers. Secondly, a wide range of products can be supplied to urban and rural consumers via a few or many intermediaries such as urban and rural healers, street traders and shop traders. Thirdly, a narrow range of packaged products can reach consumers via many intermediaries including general dealers, healers, shop traders and wholesale/mail-order.

7.2.2.2 Storage

Gatherers usually build up stocks at the rural homestead before an order can be supplied or before there is a sufficient volume to warrant a journey to the market. The amount stored is unknown but it is likely to be the total of the material which the street traders retail. In Russel Street, for example, each trader has approximately 10 kg on display and 30 kg in storage. The total mass of plants stored in the Russel Street market is estimated to be 13.5 tonnes (see Section 7.2.1.1), with a value of US$ 45 000 (R 200 000). The amount of material stored in the shops is variable, but may be as high as 2 tonnes.

Photo 11: Street trading, product storage and in many cases temporary accommodation, has a precarious existence on the sidewalk at a large and busy traffic intersection and inner-city transport node.

Raw materials for trading (rather than retailing) such as whole plants, parts of plants and chopped plants, are stored in recycled plastic woven sacks (50 kg capacity). This form of storage is used in all marketing channels. Sacks are usually stored in a dry place to prevent the decomposition of materials. Shops and healers' practices usually have a room or area set aside for stacking a large number of these bags. Street traders store their sacks under plastic sheets in the streets. Although in some towns, street traders have managed to obtain a shipping container, which is used to store many people's sacks at night.

Materials for sale to consumers, are stored in a variety of containers depending on the retail outlet. Street markets store the displayed products either on a plastic sheet on the pavement or in plastic supermarket bags (if the product is small or partially processed). In shops and healers' practices, products are usually stored in shelves or 'pigeon holes' where the wide array of materials can be kept relatively neat and separated.

Photo 12: Plants not being displayed are stored on the sidewalk in large sacks. People who sleep on the sidewalk guard the stored stocks for other traders.

7.2.2.3 Transport

Gatherers transport the harvested products from the site of harvest to their homesteads by walking and carrying the sacks on top of their heads. Several harvesting trips are made before sufficient material has been collected to warrant a trip to the market. Materials are transported to the rural and urban markets, healers and traders shops by either bus (where the sacks are tied to the roof) or by mini-bus taxis (where the sacks are stored in the taxi and the gatherer pays for the seat/s occupied by the sacks). Most of the raw materials in the market are transported in this way.

Shop traders and wealthy healers use pick-ups to collect material from street and rural markets or to visit remote areas with groups of gatherers for harvesting at some particular site. Shop traders buying from other cities rely on trucking companies to transport the sacks for them. Healers without their own vehicles travel to the various outlets by taxi and bus, or they may send 'runners' by taxi to the market to buy material. In some cases, healers may send the patient to the market to purchase the necessary products which are then taken back to the healer for preparation.

The wholesale/mail-order company transports their products mainly by delivery vehicle, or by post.

7.3 Promotion


7.3.1 Promotion by the industry
7.3.2 Promotion by government


There is little promotion of the industry by both the market participants and by any government departments. The only official promotion that has occurred is in Durban where the local government has promoted the cultivation of medicinal plants and is now building a market specifically for the medicinal plant traders.

7.3.1 Promotion by the industry

The gatherers, street traders and rural traders all rely on local knowledge of markets for promoting their trade. Word-of-mouth is used to share information about their products. For example, when seeking a scarce plant in the market, some trader may know which other trader often sells the plant or else the trader will shout out the plant name and someone in the market may respond, knowing something about the supply of that particular product. Gatherers may go around asking shops if they would like to buy some of their products. This is the extent of promotion that occurs within these marketing channels.

Shop traders and healers have sign on their shop windows and may have small advertising boards in adjacent streets. Little printed promotion takes place. The wholesale/mail-order company has the most sophisticated promotion strategy in the region, and this involves the production and distribution of a product catalogue and an associated price list. They do little advertising, and it may be difficult to locate a catalogue unless one has the contact number of the company.

Photo 13: A wide range of coarsely chopped bark neatly displayed and ready for retailing. This material can be used as is by consumers or may be further ground by healers for creating sophisticated prescriptions for patients.

There are a number of healers' organizations which attempt to promote the industry, However, in most cases the organizations promote their own organization's agenda, resulting in division within the industry as a whole.

The pharmaceutical companies which are now focusing on indigenous medicine products are likely to have an extensive promotion campaign as their new products enter the market.

7.3.2 Promotion by government

In terms of official promotion, the Department of Health is attempting to create regulations to govern the activities of healers. This could go some way to promote the professionalism within the sector. However, there appears to be strong political alignments associated with the proposed healers' councils and this is likely to limit their acceptance by the broader industry. There have also been some initiatives considering the issue of intellectual property rights, but these have not had a significant impact on the practice of indigenous medicine. Apart from these activities, there has been little national or provincial government promotion of the industry.

However, at a local government level there has been greater support for indigenous medicine. Durban City has promoted the cultivation of medicinal plants for a number of years and has the largest medicinal nursery in South Africa. Silverglen Medicinal Nursery supplies plants to healers and interested people at subsidized prices. In addition, the street trade in Durban is being promoted through the construction of a market specifically for indigenous medicine trade. Durban City Health Department has recognized the role which healers play in the health care system and are working towards greater cooperation with indigenous healers. To this end, the Health Department supports the Traditional Healers Umbrella Body, a group which consists of a wide range of healers' organizations which deals with healers and health interests in the city and in the province as a whole.

7.4 Prices


7.4.1 The rural and street market prices
7.4.2 The prices of shop traders and healers
7.4.3 The wholesale/mail-order prices
7.4.4 Summary of prices


The prices in the markets will be discussed according to the main points of sale, including the rural and street markets, the shop traders and healers, and the wholesale/mail-order company. Prices for products in the informal sectors of the medicinal plant market were highly variable. Products were traded in units of handfuls, bowls, bags and sacks. The wholesale purchasing of large volumes (bags and sacks) was usually associated with aggressive bargaining and it was not possible to ascertain realistic selling prices for bulk purchases. However, traders were helpful in disclosing the prices which they paid for bulk purchases. Retailing prices were relatively easy to estimate by purchasing products and by weighing products for sale that were displayed.

7.4.1 The rural and street market prices

In the rural markets, plants were generally sold in small quantities to consumers, small-scale traders and healers, with unit prices varying between R 3 and R 1026 (see Table 7.3). Prices per kilogram for products in the rural markets were the cheapest relative to any other markets (Table 7.3).

26 An exchange rate of SA Rands 4.5: US$ 1 is used in this report (in 1996 prices).

The urban street markets have the same unit prices for a wide range of products, with many goods being traded in convenient coinage units, such as R 2 and R 5. However, the mass per unit of product purchased differs, with distinct prices per kilogram (Table 7.3). Common plants such as Scilla natalensis which are relatively cheap (between R 1.89/kg and R 6.80/kg) are sold in large units (large bulbs with a mean mass of 416.6 g), while scarce plants such as Siphonochilus aethiopicus, which are expensive (R 140.45/kg) are sold in small units (small rhizomes with a mean mass of 35.6 g). Large and expensive plant products are usually cut into smaller affordable pieces.

Street market products are more expensive than rural market products, with an increase in prices of between 25% and 260% (for five selected species) and an average increase of 111% (Table 7.3).

Table 7.3: Prices in rural and urban street markets (Units are retailed by either handfuls or bowl. Wholesale prices could not be determined in the market without bargaining)

Species traded

Rural trade - retail

Street trade - retail

Increase in selling price -rural to street markets

Unit price

Price/kg

Unit price

Price/kg

Warburgia salutaris

5.00

8.52

2.00

16.88

(8.36) - 98%

Siphonochilus aethiopicus



5.00

140.45


Boweia volubilis

10.00

11.74

2.00

14.65

(2.91) - 25%

Eucomis autumnalis



2.00

6.20


Ocotea bullata



2.00

6.67


Alepidea amatymbica

10.00

11.68

2.00

16.06

(4.38) - 38%

Curtisia dentata

3.00

3.28

2.00

7.61

(4.33) - 132%

Scilla natalensis

3.00

1.89

2.85

6.80

(4.91) - 260%

Haworthia limifolia



2.00

30.77


All prices are in SA Rands, with R 4.50: US$ 1

Photo 14: The Mona market in Zululand which takes place monthly on pension and cattle auction days. Buyers and sellers come from a wide range of rural and urban areas to engage in trade.

7.4.2 The prices of shop traders and healers

Shop traders and healers27 reported that they purchased their products in large sacks (containing between 23 kg (bark) and 30 kg (bulbs) of material) for unit prices ranging between R 50 and R 100 (see Table 7.4), with the price per kilogram ranging between R 1.67/kg and R 4.44/kg for selected species purchased. Bulk purchases (plants in sacks) were either bought from the street traders or directly from gatherers. Haworthia limifolia and Siphonochilus aethiopicus are generally not available in large quantities and have to be bought at street prices (the same price consumers would pay).

27 Shop traders and healers are treated in the same chapter as their purchasing strategies are similar. In terms of sales, they sell at similar prices when selling 'non-prescription' products. Furthermore, it was not possible to measure the masses of products being added to mixtures in prescription products, and consequently the survey has used the shop traders volumes and prices for estimating sales to consumers at both shop traders and healers marketing channels.

Healers sell products in both prescribed and self-medication forms. The prescribed products are sold with a consultation, and the average price in Durban is R 37. Products not prescribed are sold in a similar manner to the shop trader and is discussed below.

Table 7.4: Prices in shop traders' and healers' markets (Units are bought wholesale by the sack and retailed by the handful or bowl)

Species traded

Shop and healers -buying by sack

Shop and healers -retailing by handful

Mark up in price -from buying to selling

Unit price

Price/kg

Unit price

Price/kg

Warburgia salutaris

100.00

4.44

1.40

31.16

(26.72) - 601%

Siphonochilus aethiopicus

5.00 per plant

140.45 (street)

2.70

450.00

(309.55) - 220%

Bowiea volubilis

80.00

2.67

3.10

27.80

(25.13) - 941%

Eucomis autumnalis

50.00

1.67

1.82

10.66

(8.99) - 538%

Ocotea bullata

55.00

2.89

1.40

27.71

(24.82) - 859%

Alepidea amatymbica

50.00

1.67

1.20

17.84

(16.17) - 968%

Curtisia dentata

50.00

2.22

1.04

23.85

(21.63) - 974%

Scilla natalensis

50.00

1.67

1.43

6.46

(4.73) - 283%

Haworthia limifolia

2.00 per plant

30.77 (street)

3.25

69.15

(38.38) - 125%

All prices are in SA Rands, with R 4.50: US$ 1

The shop traders' prices for products (the nine species studied) ranged between R 1.04 and R 3.10 per unit, and between R 6.46/kg to R 450/kg (see Table 7.4). As in the street trade, Scilla natalensis is the cheapest popular product per kilogram, while Siphonochilus aethiopicus is the most expensive plant product per kilogram. The mark up in price was considerably greater than in the street markets, with a range of between 125% and 974%, and a mean of 612%.

7.4.3 The wholesale/mail-order prices

The wholesale/mail-order company reported that they bought sacks of material exclusively from shop traders for between R 75 and R 95, depending on the species. The more scarce species, such as Warburgia salutaris and Eucomis autumnalis cost R 95 a sack, while the less scarce popular species, such as Ocotea bullata and Scilla natalensis were bought for R 85 per sack (see Table 7.5). The range in prices paid for the popular plants was between R 4.20/kg and R 2.80/kg. Relatively scarce species, such as Siphonochilus aethiopicus and Haworthia limifolia were not traded by the wholesaler and therefore the range in wholesale prices is more limited than in the other traders.

The prices charged for non-processed plant products ranged between R 7.66/kg and R 26.85/kg when packaged, with a mark up of between 174% and 539% (Table 7.5). However, packaged standard mixtures had greater prices. For example, one popular mix (sifazonke mpupu) was sold for R 33.36 per 600 g units (12 x 50 g sachets), or R55.60/kg. The mix of species used in this product is unknown, however, assuming that the price paid for the raw plant materials was the same as for the most expensive species (R 4.20/kg), then the mark up in price could be at least 1 233% for a product that is semi-processed and packaged.

7.4.4 Summary of prices

The price per kilogram of non-processed plants sold in the market was the cheapest in rural markets, followed by street markets, the wholesaler and finally the shop traders and healers (see Table 7.6). The highest prices paid for products was for Siphonochilus aethiopicus sold in the traders' shops and healers' practices.

The average mark up in prices for raw products varied from 111% at the street market, to 342% at the wholesaler, to 612% at the shop traders (and healers) (see Table 7.7). However, the greatest mark up in price was for packaged semi-processed products (over 1 200%) sold by the wholesaler.

Table 7.5: Prices in the wholesale trade (units are bought by sack and sold by small packaged quantities)

Species traded

Wholesaler - buying by sack

Wholesaler - selling by small quantities

Mark up in price -from buying to selling

Unit price

Price/kg

Unit price

Price/kg

Warburgia salutaris

95.00

4.20

14.93

26.85

(22.65) - 539%

Siphonochilus aethiopicus






Bowiea volubilis






Eucomis autumnalis

95.00

3.16

14.93

8.53

(5.37) - 170%

Ocotea bullata

85.00

3.70

14.93

21.64

(17.94) - 485%

Alepidea amatymbica






Curtisia dentata






Scilla natalensis

85.00

2.80

14.93

7.66

(4.86) - 174%

Haworthia limifolia






All prices are in SA Rands, with R 4.50: US$ 1

Table 7.6: A comparison of retail prices in different market channels

Species traded

Rural market retail R/kg

Street market retail R/kg

Shops/healer retail R/kg

Wholesale retail R/kg

Warburgia salutaris

8.52

16.88

31.16

26.85

Siphonochilus aethiopicus


140.45

450.00


Bowiea volubilis

11.74

14.65

27.80


Eucomis autumnalis


6.20

10.66

8.53

Ocotea bullata


6.67

27.71

21.64

Alepidea amatymbica

11.68

16.06

17.84


Curtisia dentata

3.28

7.61

23.85


Scilla natalensis

1.89

6.80

6.46

7.66

Haworthia limifolia


30.77

69.15


All prices are in SA Rands per kilogram, with R 4.50: US$ 1

Table 7.7: A comparison of price mark ups for raw products traded in the main market channels

Species traded

Street trade price mark up (R/kg and %)

Shops and healers price mark up (R/kg and %)

Wholesale price mark up (R/kg and %)

Warburgia salutaris

(8.36) - 98%

(26.72) - 601%

(22.65) - 539%

Siphonochilus aethiopicus


(309.55) - 220%


Bowiea volubilis

(2.91) - 25%

(25.13) - 941%


Eucomis autumnalis


(8.99) - 538%

(5.37) - 170%

Ocotea bullata


(24.82) - 859%

(17.94) - 485%

Alepidea amatymbica

(4.38) - 38%

(16.17) - 968%


Curtisia dentata

(4.33) - 132%

(21.63) - 974%


Scilla natalensis

(4.91) - 260%

(4.73) - 283%

(4.86) - 174%

Haworthia limifolia


(38.38) - 125%


All prices are in SA Rands, with R 4.50: US$ 1


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