Gold Standard Days draw ginseng buyers from around the world

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin is hosting Gold Standard Days at the Jefferson Street Inn in Wausau to draw buyers from eight different countries and help ginseng farmers in Marathon County.

A buyer from Vietnam looks at Marathon County ginseng (WSAW Photo).

This is the first year they are hosting this event to bring buyers directly to farmers.

Growers here said it was a difficult year for ginseng crops, not only because we had one of the wettest years on record, but also because of the trade tariffs on exports to China, where much of the ginseng is sold.

"It is a wonderful product. That's why I'm here," said Cao Dung, who represents a pharmaceutical company in Vietnam. He said he took a 17-hour flight to see what is considered some of the world’s premiere ginseng.

Ginseng brings $40 million to Wisconsin annually.

"It can boost the immune system. Also for mental health, and can improve health in general, according to Asian people's beliefs," he said.

Most ginseng leaves the continent, which made it vulnerable during the trade war with China.

"We've struggled for the last year and a half with the tariffs on China. About 85% of ginseng goes to Asia," said Jackie Fett, the Executive Director of the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin.

Since China retaliated with tariffs during the trade war in early 2018, it's been challenging for farmers to sell.

"The tariff has made an impact on our industry, that's one of the reasons we're hosting this event, to stimulate the industry again," Fett said.

The Ginseng Board of Wisconsin organized three days of events to connect 40 buyers with local growers to help them sell ginseng.
"The tariffs are around 45% right now, so that's been a large increase, over a 40% increase in tariffs since 2018," she said.

The board has represented farmers in trying to get those tariffs lowered.
"We're actively engaging with our state legislators and with the U.S. trade team about our industry and the challenges that we face," she said.

Fett said she feels like the ginseng board has been heard by lawmakers and they are waiting for a phase one deal on the trade tariffs that might give farmers some relief.

The event will continue tomorrow and Friday with a dinner to thank the buyers, as well as educational sessions about why Marathon County ginseng is considered the gold standard.