Hibiscus

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Scientific name: Hibiscus sabdariffa
Family: Malvaceae
Common name: Roselle, L’oiselle, Jamaican sorrel, Karkade, Bissap, etc.

History
More than 300 species of hibiscus can be found around the world, growing in both
tropical and subtropical regions. Most varieties are used as ornamental plants, but
the swollen red calyces of the sabdariffa type are dried and brewed into teas, and are
also used in the processing of juices, jellies, jams, ice cream and flavors. The product
has many common names including Jamaican sorrel, roselle, cabitutu, vinuela,
oseille de guinée, and karkade. Because of the rapid withering of the hibiscus
sabdariffa flower, it would not be an economical product to export fresh over long
distances. Therefore this market survey will focus on the dried calyx and its market
potential.
Germany is an even larger importer of herbal tea ingredients. Imports totaled nearly
43 thousand MTs or ECU 90 million (US$97 million) in 1997 for plants and plant parts
for use in herbal teas, medicines and perfumes, an increase of 41 percent in volume
and 72 percent in value over 1993 levels. Importers interviewed estimated that
product intended exclusively for herbal teas made up one-quarter of total imports or
roughly 10 thousand MTs (US$24 million).
Hibiscus is available from Thailand, Sudan, China, Mexico, and various other smaller
producing nations including Egypt, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali, and Jamaica. China is
the dominant supplier to the US according to importers surveyed. Thailand, Mexico
and Egypt supply smaller amounts of hibiscus. The preference is for Sudanese
product, but the US trade embargo on the Sudan has forced importers to source
Sudanese product via Germany and at a considerable mark-up.
Sudan dominates the German import market. German herbal tea manufacturers
consider Sudanese hibiscus to have the perfect color blend and taste for herbal tea
bases, but also source hibiscus from China and Thailand and much smaller
quantities from Egypt and Mexico. (www.vietfarm.com/roselle.htm).

From the above it is seen that Hibiscus for the world market is currently only
produced in the Northern Hemisphere. This means, since South Africa is in the
Southern Hemisphere, that there is a unique opportunity for South African growers to
produce Hibiscus during the Northern Hemisphere off-season. This is an ideal
situation for overseas buyers. They can now buy fresh Hibiscus calyces right through
the year.
KwaZulu-Natal, one of nine provinces in South Africa (Figure 1), met all the
requirements for the production of Hibiscus. In 1998 pilot plantings were done at
Eshowe on the land of three rural farmers. Several problems (mixed varieties,
incorrect plant spacing) were encountered and the yield was marginal. However the
quality was exceptional. In 1999/2000 season, the Hibiscus crop was destroyed by a
fungal infection, Botrytis cinerea. In 2000, Ndumu (Northern KwaZulu-Natal), which
has a dryer climate, was included in the study. The Hibiscus growers in KwaZulu-
Natal has formed a Growers Association which oversees the processes of seed
distribution, collection of dried Hibiscus after harvesting and marketing of the crop.

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