JOHOR BARU: Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is no longer the cheaper alternative it once was as prices of herbs have skyrocketed due to the global economy and high demand worldwide.
As a result of the weak ringgit, it was now more costly to import such medicine from China, said Malaysia Federation of Chinese Medicine Dealers and Practitioners Association secretary-general Kerk Ee Chan.
He said the price of some herbs went up by as much as 50% after the GST implementation in April last year and the cost continued to rise steadily over the past year.
TCM plays a vital part in Chinese meals like soups, besides its medicinal purposes.
“Traders are also feeling the pinch as we have members complaining of some 40% to 60% of drop in their businesses.
“They are barely scraping through each month,” he said in an interview.
Kerk said there was no sign of the prices stabilising due to the global economy and the weak ringgit, advising consumers and practitioners to brace for a continuous increase that was expected to become more acute after Chinese New Year.
“The price increase does not only apply to herbs but also medicinal liquors and ointments, commonly used for tui na (a form of Chinese therapeutic massage), which has gone up by a whopping 150%,” he added.
This led to a negative impact on the development of TCM as there were patients who avoided going to TCM clinics because of the cost, he said.
Southern University College (Southern UC) TCM clinic department head Teo Chee Fung said medicine like the tai zhi shen (a root herb), cost about RM140 per kg which was a sharp increase compared to the beginning of the year when it was sold at RM50 per kg.
He said the wu wei zi or Five Taste Fruit, which improves memory and the nervous system, went up by two-fold from RM60 per kg in January to about RM120 per kg by year end.
As for common root herbs such as dang gui and dang shen, usually used in tonics and soups, he said the prices went up by about 10% to RM110 per kg and RM140 per kg respectively since the start of the year.
A check at Chinese medical halls showed other common herbs increased by about 5% to 10% since the beginning of the year such as the price of jing ying hua (honeysuckle flowers) which went up to RM55 per kg, chrysanthemum flowers (RM50 per kg) while red dates went up slightly to around RM10 per kg.
Southern UC TCM management committee chairman Lim Boon Hime said besides the high demand in traditional medicine, another contributing factor was the improvement of China’s economy, lifestyle and standard of living in recent years.
Many Chinese herb farmers have given up agriculture causing a blow to the global TCM industry.
“A trip to a TCM hall or clinic used to cost about RM20 to RM30 but nowadays it is common for the bill to come up to more than RM100,” he said, adding that certain herbs increased by a huge percentage from RM20 per kg to thousands of ringgit.
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