Peter VanBerlo has $2 million worth of premium North American ginseng in 546 plastic-wrapped boxes, just waiting to be shipped to China. And waiting, and waiting.
His September harvest of the beige, gnarled roots—popular in China for their purported health benefits—is stalled because the biggest buyer, a company in Hong Kong, spectacularly melted down in January, leaving farmers like VanBerlo in limbo.
“It’s just stuck here,” says VanBerlo from below a black leather cowboy hat, at a storage facility behind his home in Ontario, Canada. “I don’t want it sitting here, the banks don’t like it sitting here. I’ve got to turn it into cash. And no one’s buying, because everyone is waiting to find out what happens with this big buyer.”
The “big buyer” is Hang Fat Ginseng, a Hong-Kong listed company founded by brothers Jeffrey and Matthew Yeung more than two decades ago. From its origins as a wholesaler of