Ginseng suppliers reach settlement

A LAWSUIT launched by retailer Ginseng USA (Holdings) against the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin Inc (GBW) has been settled out of court, according to a GBW official.

''The litigation between the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and Ginseng USA has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,'' said GBW president Larry Berens. He gave no further details.

Ginseng USA, which operates 37 stores in Hong Kong, filed a writ in the Supreme Court in January following statements made by GBW during a press conference.

The company claimed statements made by Ng Chun-man had seriously injured its reputation, business and goodwill.

GBW, a public agency of the State of Wisconsin, has attempted to outmanoeuvre rivals by promoting its so-called Wisconsin Genuine Ginseng Seal Programme, which clearly identifies ginseng from Wisconsin.

GBW says that since the programme's introduction three years ago consumers' awareness of both American and Wisconsin ginseng has sharply increased.

Mr Berens said GBW would be travelling to Taiwan later this week to introduce the programme there. There are also plans to launch it in the United States, targeting Chinese communities and health stores.

Wisconsin ginseng, which was first imported to China about 200 years ago, is now a US$90 million-a-year business.

Hong Kong imports 1.5 million pounds of Wisconsin ginseng each year, about 60 per cent of which is re-exported to China.

Wisconsin produces 95 per cent of the ginseng grown in the US.

Ginseng is valued in Asia for its reputed medicinal powers.