9. Price Analysis




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9. Price Analysis


The available literature and the preliminary survey of the market revealed variable prices within and across various ‘mandis’ in the country. A fair idea of the prevailing prices of the botanicals is necessary to work out economic contribution of the raw drug trade to the society. To address this issue, data related to the prevailing prices of the various botanicals was gathered from two sources i.e. (i) the sale prices quoted in the ‘mandis’ and (ii) the procurement prices paid by different herbal manufacturing units. Survey and analysis of data also brought out price trends in respect of some entities along with prominent factors that influence the prices of botanicals.

9.1. Factors influencing Prices of Botanicals
9.1.1 Locational Effects:

The prices of botanicals were observed to be much lower in the intermediate mandis which are located near the production areas and obtain these materials directly from these areas. Prevailing price of ‘kalmegh’ (Andrographis paniculata) in the markets in Chhatisgarh, collected locally from the area, was recorded to be in the range of Rs. 6-8/- per kg. However, the sale price of this entity quoted in the Delhi and Amritsar mandis ranged from Rs. 18-28/- and Rs. 18-22/- respectively. Similarly, palash flowers (Butea monsperma), traded as ‘tesu’ in Chhatisgarh markets at Rs. 6/- per kg., had a price tag of Rs. 18/- in the markets of Delhi and Amritsar. An idea about the increase in prices, as the entity enters a market far away from the production areas, can be had from the table 9.1 showing the comparison of prices of some botanicals recorded from intermediate markets in Chhatisgarh (production areas) and Delhi mandi:


Table 9.1 Price comparison between Delhi and Chhatisgarh Mandis

S. No.

Trade Name
Botanical Name

Part(s)

Price Range

(Rs. per Kg)



Delhi

Chhatisgarh




1

Bael

Aegle marmelos

Fruit pulp

12-15

7-8




2

Kalmegh

Andrographis paniculata

Whole Plant

18-28

6-8




3

Satawari

Asparagus racemosus

Root

34-240

40




4

Tesu/ Gul Palash

Butea monosperma

Flower

18-22

6




5

Amaltas

Cassia fistula

Fruit

8-22

10




6

Nagarmotha

Cyperus scariosus

Root

12-15

6




7

Vai-Vidang

Embelia ribes

Seed

34-48

25-35




8

Amla

Emblica officinalis

Fruit

28-36

18-20




9

Gudmar

Gymnema sylvestre

Leaf/Stem

22-32

15




10

Kaladana

Ipomoea hederacea

Seed

13-16

4-8




S. No.

Trade Name
Botanical Name

Part(s)

Price Range (Rs. per Kg)

Delhi

Chhatisgarh

11

Konch (White)

Mucuna pruriens

Seed

14-16

4-5

12

Bhilawa

Semecarpus anacardium

Seed

12-14

4-5

13

Kuchla

Strychnos nux-vomica

Seed

28-35

14-15

14

Ashwagandha

Withania somnifera

Root

68-80

40

15

Dhai Phool

Woodfordia fruticosa

Flower

12-14

5-10

Similar significant variations in prices of many other botanicals, between the intermediate mandis (markets) located near the production areas and the mandis located away from such production areas, were also noticed. However, the percentage difference in these prices seems to be higher in respect of botanicals that are traded in large volumes. In case of Himalayan species, which are traded in comparatively lesser volumes, such percentage difference is much less. A comparison of prices of a few botanicals recorded in Amritsar mandi acting as an intermediate mandi for these Himalayan species, viz-a-viz Thrissur mandi has been presented in table 9.2 to elaborate the issue:


Table 9.2 Price comparison of selected botanicals between Amritsar & Thrissur Mandis

S. No.

Trade Name
Botanical Name

Part(s)

Price Range (Rs. per Kg)

Amritsar

Thrissur

1

Karu

Picrorhiza kurroa

Rhizomes

200-250

260-300

2

Jatamansi

Nardostachys grandiflora

Rhizomes

170-200

175-200

3

Kiriat/ Chirata

Swertia chirayita

Whole Plant

260-270

250

4

Talishpatram

Abies spectabilis

Leaves

35-40

50-60

5

Atis

Aconitum heterophyllum

Rhizomes

3500-4000

4000-5000


Swertia chirayita is largely imported from Nepal into Delhi mandi and it is from this mandi (prevailing price Rs. 175-190/- per kg) that it is supplied to other mandis and manufacturing units. A marginally lower price of this entity recorded in Thrissur market, which is located far away from the region of its production, compared to the Amritsar market, might be on account of a better deal.

9.1.2 Purity/ Quality:

Quality and purity of the raw drugs does seem to have an impact on their prices. A number of these botanicals are traded in markets at different levels of grading and their different grades command different prices. To cite an example, rhizomes of Valeriana jatamansi are in high demand but short in supply. Thus, use is made of all the underground parts, which are graded and sold under different categories like ‘Tagar’ (rhizomes free of any roots), ‘Mushakbala’ (thin rhizomes with roots), Mushakbala ghaia’ (roots with root hairs) and ‘Mushakbala choora’ (root hairs and other waste). Prices of Rs. 110/-, 70/-, 50/- and 40/- per kg respectively of these different grades of Valeriana roots have been recorded at Amritsar mandi.



Similarly, the mandi price of Cinnamomum tamala leaves being sold as ‘tejpatta’ was recorded as Rs. 25/- per kg while that of ‘tejpatta with dandi’ was recorded as Rs. 15/- per kg. ‘Kalmegh’ (Andrographis paniculata) when sold in neatly cut and packaged form was observed to command about 20% higher price than the one sold loose. Grading seems to play a definite role in the prices of ‘harar’ (Terminalia chebula) also as the large variation in price ranging from Rs. 10/- per kg to Rs. 80/- per kg would indicate. It has been observed that ‘harar’ conforming to “75 dana per ser” was commanding the highest price in this price range.
Many a times botanicals produced in, or obtained from, some specific region are perceived to be of better quality and, therefore, command better price. For example ‘jatamansi’, roots of Nardostachys grandiflora, when obtained from the forests of Kullu (Himachal Pradesh) command about 15% higher price in comparison to the material obtained from other areas as recorded in Amritsar mandi. Similarly, ‘asgandh’ (Withania somnifera) obtained from Nagore in Rajasthan (popularly traded as ‘nagori’) is preferred due to its quality and commands higher price in comparison to asgandh obtained from other areas.
Sometimes the apparently large variation in prices could to be due to trade of more than one species under one trade name. For example ‘shatavari’ (Asparagus racemosus), gathered from the wild in Chhatisgarh and traded in local mandis recorded a price of Rs. 40/- per kg. In Thrissur market the recorded rate for this entity was Rs. 50/- per kg , whereas it was Rs. 60/- per kg in Amritsar mandi. However, a large rate variation (Rs. 34/- to Rs. 240/- per kg) was reported in Delhi market. This cannot be explained away only on account of quality parameters. Apparently more than one entity is being traded in Delhi market as ‘shatavari’. Our interpretation is that the high priced ‘shatavari’ of Delhi mandi is obtained from Asparagus adscendens (a Himalayan species) and this entity is recorded as ‘shatavar’ in Amritsar mandi with a price range of Rs. 200–250/- per kg.
Another factor influencing the price seems to be the presence of physical impurities or adulterants in the traded botanicals. For example a large difference in the prices of ‘Banslochan’(obtained from more than one species of Bamboos), being traded as ‘Banslochan asli’ at more than Rs.500/- per kg and ‘Banslochan desi’ at less than Rs.50/- per kg, was recorded from Delhi mandi. Similarly, a large variation in the rates of ‘Babool gum’ (Acacia nilotica) was recorded from the Delhi and Chhatisgarh mandis where it was recorded as Rs. 200-250/- per kg and Rs. 15-40/- per kg respectively. In both these cases the price variation seems to be due mainly to purity issues. It is not uncommon in the raw drug markets to come across suffixes, like ‘No.1’ or ‘No.2’ or ‘Asli’ etc., added to the trade names apparently to denote purity levels.
9.1.3 Seasonality of Production:

There is a definite season for harvesting of appropriately mature plant based raw material from the wild as well as from cultivated sources. This seasonality of production results in arrival of the harvested botanicals in large quantities in the mandis bringing their prices down often to the lowest level for the year. Informal discussions with the traders revealed that the low prices at the time of bulk receipt of any particular botanicals in the mandi were due to the reason that many a times such material was not properly dried and needed drying and packaging for further trade. Drying of such botanicals by the traders obviously results in reduction in weight necessitating raising of prices at the time of forward trading. However, the study could not bring out the exact impact of seasonality of production on prices as it would require repeated visits to the mandis during a year.


9.1.4 Bulk Purchases:

Analysis of the data obtained during the study reveals that prices of botanicals are also influenced by the size of procurement order. The bulk buyers, procuring the material at appropriate time of the year, are able to get it at substantially low prices than those generally quoted in the market at the time of such procurement. Some of these bulk buyers include the large industrial houses having adequate monetary resources and storage facilities for this purpose. Even though only a few industrial units have come forward to share the information about their procurement prices, yet it is adequate to draw inferences about the price of botanicals vis-à-vis size of purchase order.


‘Atis’ (Aconitum heterophyllum) commands a price of Rs. 3,500-4,000/- per kg in Amritsar market. However, Dabur, Baidyanath and Kottakal with purchase orders of 1.3 MT, 1MT and 18 MT respectively, managed to procure ‘Atis’ at average prices of Rs. 2,122/-, Rs. 2,400 and Rs. 2,500/- per kg. Similarly, per kg prices for ‘Bach’ (Acorus calamus) as recorded from Delhi, Amritsar, Thrissur and Viruthunagar mandis were Rs. 44-45/-, Rs.42-45/-, Rs. 40-50/- and Rs. 35/- respectively. However, both Dabur and Kottakal with purchases of 27 MT and 15 MT respectively procured the material at Rs. 32/- per kg and Rs. 30-40/- per kg whereas Nagarjuna with a smaller purchase of 4 MT had to procure the material at Rs. 43/- per kg. Similar situation prevails in respect of botanicals like ‘Nagarmotha’ (Cyperus rotundus), ‘Vaividang’ (Embelia sp.), Amla (Emblica officinalis), ‘Dhatki’ (Woodfordia floribunda), ‘Asgandh’ (Withania somnifera), ‘Gokhru’ (Tribulus sp.), etc. that are purchased in large quantities by the large herbal pharmaceutical units.
9.1.5 Scale of Production:

Production of raw drugs, whether obtained from wild or from cultivation, was reported to fluctuate from year to year directly impacting their prices. One of the factors for this fluctuation was cited to be climate, especially precipitation, as bulk of the medicinal plants is obtained from rainfed areas. Another factor for this fluctuation in production seems to be the regulations in place for harvesting from the forests under which different forest areas are opened for harvesting once in a harvesting cycle of 3-4 years. Moreover, harvesting of some botanicals is sometimes temporarily suspended by the state forest departments to recoup wild populations of such botanicals. This affects the production of such entities in the area impacting their price.


9.1.6 Imports:

Prices of botanicals usually produced within the country show sudden fluctuation in prices if these botanicals or their substitutes are imported to the country at lower prices. For example the import of Piper chaba as ‘long pepper’ at lower prices finds many manufacturers using this species in place of Piper longum, the indigenous ‘long pepper’, that sells at higher prices.

9.2. Price Trends
In view of the discussion in the preceding section, it is amply clear that the prices of botanicals are prone to large scale variations within and across markets in the country. Moreover, in the absence of any comprehensive time series data on the trade prices of various botanicals, it is not possible to work out any price trends. However, it has been possible to gather a time series data for prices of botanicals at ‘farm gate level’ i.e. the prices being paid to the collectors of these materials, as maintained by the GCC, Andhra Pradesh for the last 15 years. An analysis of price trends of some species has been attempted and is presented in the Figures 9.1, 9.2, 9.3 & 9.4:
Fig. 9.1 Price Trends of Botanicals based on GCC Data - 01

In the figure 9.1 analysis of prices of a set of four botanicals over a time period of 15 years has been presented. Whereas fluctuations in average annual prices, on year to year basis, are evident, it is also worth noting that the prices being paid to the collectors have stagnated for myrobalans (Terminalia chebula) over the past 15 years and they have registered only 3-4 fold increase over this period for the other three botanicals.
Fig. 9.2 Price Trends of Botanicals based on GCC Data - 02

Analysis of the data as presented in figure 9.2 above reveals that the collectors of gum of Sterculia urens have been receiving between Rs.70 to Rs.85 per kilogram over the last 7 years (2000-01 to 2005-06), which is significantly higher only when compared to the price which is of around Rs.25 per kg. being received by them during 1989-90 and 1993-94. Anogeissus latifolia gum shows a sudden peak price of Rs.60 per kg during 1994-95, while recording rates below Rs.30 per kg for the remaining period, except for the recent trend of steady increase during the last 3 years.


Fig. 9.3 Price Trends of Botanicals based on GCC Data – 03

The graphical presentation of data of average annual price being paid by GCC, to the collectors of fruits, nuts and seeds, as depicted in figure 9.3 above, shows an overall increase between two-fold (Sapindus emarginatus) to almost six-fold (Strychnos nux-vomica) over the 15 year period. It also records significant fluctuations in prices, on year to year basis, for most of these entities.


Fig. 9.4 Price Trends of Botanicals based on GCC Data - 04



Decalepis hamiltonii is an endemic species of high conservation concern. It’s global distribution is limited to the dry regions of peninsular Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It’s current trade entirely consists of the material obtained from the wild. As can be seen in the figure 9.4 above, the collection price of dry roots of this species paid by GCC has shown only a marginal increase from Rs. 14.50/- per kg in 1997-98 to Rs. 25/- per kg in 2005-06 and most of this increase is over the last one year only.
This analysis of average annual prices of different botanicals, paid by GCC to the collectors (farm gate prices) over the last 15 years, shows only about 3-fold increase over the entire period, along with noticeable annual fluctuations for certain years.
Price data for three years i.e. 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000 in respect of 162 medicinal plant species derived on the basis of herbal industry’s procurement price has been provided in the CERPA report (Anon., 2002). An attempt has been made in table 9.3 to compare the prices of highly traded and important botanicals as given in CERPA report with the prices obtained during the current study.
Table 9.3 Price trends – CERPA vs. FRLHT

S. No.

Name of Species

Traded Part

Prices (Rs. per kg) as per CERPA report

Price range (Rs.per kg) as per FRLHT Survey

1997-1998

1998-1999

1999-2000

2005-06

1

Achyranthes aspera

Fruit

17

18

20

10-15

2

Acorus calamus

Rhizome

23

27

30

30-35

3

Adhatoda vasica

Leaf

-

-

15

10-15

4

Aegle marmelos

Fruit pulp

17

18

20

10-25

5

Andrographis paniculata

Whole plant

17

19

20

17-30

6

Asparagus racemosus

Tuber

52

56

70

40-70

7

Cyperus rotundus

Rhizomes

9

9

15

15-30

8

Embelia ribes

Fruit

83

79

100

40-45

9

Emblica officinalis

Fruit

14

16

40

30-35

10

Nardostachys grandiflora

Rhizome

119

131

150

110-150

11

Picrorhiza kurroa

Rhizome

108

125

150

220-230

12

Pistacia integerrima

Leaf gall

85

79

110

90-110

13

Saraca asoca

Stem bark

23

22

30

20-25

14

Swertia chirayita

Whole plant

274

282

300

200-225

15

Terminalia chebula

Fruit

8

9

10

10-15

16

Tribulus terrestris

Fruit

16

16

20

10-20

17

Withania somnifera

Root

39

42

60

60-70

18

Woodfordia floribunda

Flower

17

18

20

10-15

Analysis of the above table reveals that prices of only Acorus calamus, Aegle marmelos, Picrorhiza kurroa and Terminalia chebula have shown some increase over the past 6-8 years. As regards other botanicals analyzed in the table, prices seem to have either stagnated or actually gone down. Such inferred decline in prices of botanicals, in high demand, may be due to the higher price estimates recorded in CERPA report and not due to any market dynamics.



9.3. Conclusions
Analysis of the data as presented in the preceding paragraphs clearly brings out the fact that there are large scale variations in prices of botanicals within and across the markets/mandis of the country. It is, therefore, not feasible to work out and assign specific price tags to the botanicals across the markets, for any specific year.
Moreover, it has also been interpreted that the prices recorded in the mandis are usually the potential prices and may not necessarily be the actual sale prices, as significant differences have been noticed between the prices quoted in the mandis and the procurement prices reported by the herbal industry. It is, therefore, reasonable to interpret that the average annual procurement prices of the botanicals reported by the herbal manufacturing units are more reliable indicators of their market value. It is, however, quite difficult to obtain this information from the manufacturers, especially the smaller units, as competitive procurement prices make a considerable difference to their profit margins.
From the foregoing discussion it is also clear that any attempt to work out species-wise price list for medicinal plants in trade is not feasible as most of these species are traded as specific parts or products and not necessarily as whole plants. Different traded parts (referred to as botanicals in this report), derived from even one species, command different prices and averaging out such diverse prices is neither desirable nor indicative of any price trends. However, in table 10.2 (Chapter 10) we have presented a consolidated picture, which includes the price range as well as quantitative range, relating to species in high volume trade.


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