Authorities set to crack down on fake ginseng
The Ministry of Science and Technology is working on a plan to do away with products counterfeiting Ngoc Linh ginseng (Panax vietnamensis or Vietnamese ginseng) which are seriously hurting the value and brand of this national product.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is working on a plan to do away with products counterfeiting Ngoc Linh ginseng (Panax vietnamensis or Vietnamese ginseng) which are seriously hurting the value and brand of this national product.

The move follows a survey conducted by the Ministry’s Inspectorate at Ngoc Linh ginseng trading centers, Da Nang city, and in Nam Tra My district (Quang Nam province) and Tu Mo Rong district (Kon Tum province), the two areas having the natural conditions favorable for the growth of the valuable herb.

Visitors take a look at Ngoc Linh ginseng wine products__Photo: Do Truong/VNA

The survey found that fake Ngoc Linh ginseng, including seeds, seedlings, roots, leaves and flowers, are now sold rampantly in the market. The counterfeit products are believed to come from wild or Vu Diep pseudoginseng which looks like Ngoc Linh ginseng.

Mushrooming trade in fake Ngoc Linh ginseng is prompted by the soaring demand for the ginseng after it was recognized as a national brand in June and received a certificate of the geographical indication for Ngoc Linh last August. Since then, the price of the ginseng has skyrocketed up to five times, now ranging between VND 45 million (about USD 2,000) and VND 150 million (over USD 6,800) per kilogram depending on its type.

According to Nguyen Nhu Quynh, deputy chief inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology, illegal trading in the ginseng varied from infringements upon intellectual property rights such as using the phrase “Ngoc Linh ginseng” in company names and commercial names without permission from Quang Nam and Kon Tum provincial authorities, to selling products counterfeiting the Ngoc Linh geographical indication.

But Quynh acknowledged it was not easy to detect and handle false ginseng products, given the absence of testing facilities in Quang Nam and Kon Tum provinces. There is now only a single testing center in Ho Chi Minh City, making testing a time-consuming process, particularly in cases involving large quantities of violating products. In many cases, according to Quynh, distinguishing real and fake products was merely based on observations and experiences of experts and local growers, which were hardly reliable as the ginseng was counterfeited sophisticatedly, even containing some real parts.

In most cases, violators were handled for acts other than infringing upon intellectual property rights, such as doing business without a business registration certificate, liquor retail permit or food safety training certificate, or trading in goods without origin.

The lack of a complete tool kit for Ngoc Linh ginseng management and control, overlapping functions among different authorities in tracing the product origin and inspecting quality of goods circulated in the market, and lax control over Ngoc Linh ginseng products were other problems, Quynh said.

Under the Science Ministry’s plan to prevent and handle fake Ngoc Linh ginseng and related products, the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam will work with relevant bodies to assist Quang Nam and Kon Tum provinces in completing a tool kit for management, control and protection of the geographical indication for the ginseng, which includes regulations on management and use of the geographical indication, and affixture of stamps and labels for identification. The Office will also consider expanding the geographical indication to neighboring growing areas if they are fully qualified.

The Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality will work with the Science and Technology Department in reviewing and proposing the revision and development of national standards on Ngoc Linh ginseng.

The Department of Market Development and Science and Technology Enterprises will soon establish in Kon Tum province a testing center with adequate testing equipment and qualified staff.

The Ministry’s Inspectorate will review legal documents to adopt appropriate plans to detect and handle counterfeit products.

Local authorities have also made various efforts to restrict sale of fake products. Quang Nam province has just held a monthly fair to sell Ngoc Linh ginseng in Nam Tra My district. The quality of the ginseng sold at this fair, which is due to open on the first three days every month, is guaranteed by the Nam Tra My district administration and provincial specialized agencies.

Earlier in March, the first Ngoc Linh ginseng festival was held in Nam Tra My district, attracting over 13,000 visitors. At this event, local growers sold some 200 kilograms of Ngoc Linh ginseng worth VND 12.5 billion (nearly USD 57,000).

Ngoc Linh ginseng is ranked one of the world’s four best ginsengs together with those of the US, South Korea and North Korea. The ginseng contains 52 types of saponins, 26 of which have chemical structures commonly found in Korean, US and Japanese ginsengs. The remaining saponins have a new structure which hasn’t been found in other types. Saponin is the main component of ginseng, the more saponins a ginseng contains, the better its quality is.

Research results show Ngoc Linh ginseng can help fight stress, depression, cancer, oxidation and aging, protect the liver and boost the immune system.- (VLLF)

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