Thousands of tons of maca, the Andean root famous for its healing and energizing properties, have been smuggled out of Peru, America Television’s “Cuarto Poder” news program said.
Chinese businessmen come as tourists to the central region of Junin, where they have purchased more than 2,000 tons of this year’s 4,500-ton maca harvest.
From Junin the maca is shipped by truck, apparently to the Bolivian border, from where it is smuggled out of the country, the program said.
The report showed shots of numerous Chinese citizens in maca-growing areas.
The president of the Maca Growers Association of Junin, Elvira Llanos, said that farmers sell their harvests to the Chinese because they offer up to 32 soles ($11.40) per kilo (2.2 lbs.), while Peruvian companies pay only 9 soles ($3.21).
Llanos said that in addition the Chinese will pay as much as 70 soles ($25) per kilo for the variety known as black maca.
The report recalled that since 2003 a regulation has been in force that bans the export of maca in its raw form.
Maca boosts sex drive and potency, diminishes depression and anxiety, and increases energy, according to a study by Lima’s Cayetano Heredia University.
Experts note that China is now growing as many as seven varieties of maca, though none has the properties of the Peruvian root, for which they ask Peru’s government to take measures to protect the nation’s natural heritage.