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   Nov 17

Oji slashes growing time for popular Chinese medicine

TOKYO — Japan’s Oji Holdings has developed a method to reduce the growing time of licorice by more than half, aiming to meet rising domestic demand for a plant widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and other applications.

The paper manufacturer cut the time from sowing to harvesting to just two years by adjusting fertilizer application, watering and other variables. The company confirmed that licorice root grown this way meets government potency standards, which normally require five to six years of growing time to achieve. This method allows for cultivation on regular farmland, rather than in a factory, making it suited to high-volume production.

The company recently tested the process successfully on land it owns in Hokkaido. Oji aims to start selling licorice root to makers of traditional Chinese medicine and other companies in 2019, targeting roughly 30 tons a year in the near future. Oji plans to expand its growing area tenfold over the next few years from 1 hectare now, tapping idle land. Each hectare can produce 3 tons of licorice a year, the company says.

The new method applies techniques used for growing trees efficiently based on genetic analysis developed by Oji as part of the company’s forestry business.

Licorice root is a major traditional Chinese herbal medicine believed to possess pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. The plant is used in cosmetics and food as well. Japan consumed about 1,576 tons in fiscal 2012, making it the nation’s most-used traditional Chinese medicine, data from an industry group shows. Most of the licorice root is imported from China.

The Japanese market for traditional Chinese medicines reached 146 billion yen ($1.33 billion) in fiscal 2015, expanding 55% in a decade. With demand growing in China as well, import prices are rising, spurring a push for domestic production

Source: Nikkei

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