Herbal medicines potential forex earner-Mperembe

Written by  McDonald Chiwayula

For centuries prior to establishment of the pharmaceutical industry, mankind relied on natural medicinal plants to treat a number of diseases and injuries; talk of snake bites, fever, stomach upsets to cough remedies.

Frank Kusamale, Operations Manager, Mperembe Herbal Products Frank Kusamale, Operations Manager, Mperembe Herbal Products

Old timers say some plants are loaded with powerful healing properties and scientists have started authenticating such claims with clinical research trials. University of Minnesota’s Literature on health and well being asserts to the fact that botanicals are being used by people across the globe to treat disease symptoms and maintain overall good health. The journal cites botanicals such as hawthorn and garlic as undisputable natural remedies for improving cardiovascular health. It further states that, ‘Garlic is a notable botanical plant that is effective in reducing serum cholesterol.’

In the Philippines the Department of Health approved 10 herbal plants as an alternative to conventional medicines. The department was quoted in the press saying the citizenry lamented the high cost of prescribed medicines as such it was obliged to conduct clinical studies for alternative medicines hence the approval. For instance peppermint plant is legally permissible in the Philippines as a cough, dizziness, colds and nausea remedy.

The environment in Malawi is quite conducive for growing a variety of medicinal plants whose mixtures or stand alone therapies have been touted in relieving and healing a number of chronic illnesses. In the last ten years a number of private herbal farms have been established across the country as the market behaviour is steadily slanting towards modernized herbal therapies.

One of the players in herbal medicines in the country, Mperembe Mchiritsa Herbal Clinic, says herbal medicines are effective despite facing a number of mud-slinging which it alleges is being masterminded by the rival industry. Operations Manager for Mperembe, Frank Kusamale, said China, India and Italy just to mention a few countries can attest to effectiveness of herbal medicines. He said this is an industry that if well developed can bring the much needed forex in the country.

“As Government is encouraging that we move away from being a predominantly importing nation and become an exporting one, Mperembe is positioning itself to compliment efforts in this area. Health products sell fast and we want to contribute to the development of the country by coming up with products that rakes in substantial amount of forex,” said Kusamale.

Some customers on the market have raised concerns on quality of some of the herbal products. Kusamale said herbal products being consumables, utmost hygiene and care should be adhered to in the whole supply chain. He said Mperembe Mchiritsa products are certified by Malawi Bureau of Standards as such they uphold highest quality standards. He then advised other players who have a vision of exporting their products to strictly maintain high standards.

“Take for instance Ereben Juice that we process, it goes with MBS sticker. For us to get that sticker we underwent a rigorous process that sought to ensure that our products meet the expected hygiene and quality standards. We expect other players to follow suit and when we gain the confidence of the local market it will be easier to sell in foreign markets. This is a lucrative sector,” he said.

Currently the company is operating in Blantyre, Zomba, Ntcheu and Lilongwe and plans to scale up to other districts of the country. As earlier alluded to it is strategising to expand its business to foreign markets in near future.

Other players already plying a similar trade on the market include Muhinje Farm, Teras and Green World just to mention a few. All these are focusing on foreign markets as an expansion strategy.

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