The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) said: “95 percent of the factory products of Iran are exported to other countries.”
In the 89th meeting of the National Council for Science and Technology Development of Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine, Vice-presidency for Science and Technology, Hossein Kamali Sarvestani indicated,”Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) plant is grown in two latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. This plant is industrially cultivated in China, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Italy, and is widely exported.”
He added, “This plant is mainly grown in wheat fields and farms of Iran, and harvested like they would weeds and wild plants, then sent to those factories which produce licorice powder and extract.”
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of licorice mentioned the scattering of licorice plant in Fars, Kermanshah, Hamedan, Lorestan, Azerbaijan, Isfahan, Ardebil, Kerman, North Khorasan and Razavi Khorasan provinces.
While describing the roots of Licorice , which is called licorice, he said, “The root of this plant is used in the industrial productions and based on climate, precipitation, and the amount harvested every year, its quantity may differ.”
According to Kamali, the harvest of licorice has decreased due to the droughts in the recent years.
Regarding the export of the raw licorice, he stated,”161 tonnes of raw Licorice was exported to India in 1936. This trend continued until 1973. The first factory to produce and export licorice powder and extract was established in Iran in 1966.”
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of licorice went on to say,”Shirinbayan Zarghan company was established in Fars province in 1966. Shirin Darou company was established in 1972 and Rishmak co. in 1973.”
He refers to these three companies as the pioneers in production of licorice powder and extract and said, “Due to the origin of licorice, these companies have been formed in Fars province, since licorice is quite bulky, its transportation will be costly. Therefore, preferably the factories are built near the origins of the plant.”
Iran’s 14 Active Factories in Licorice Products
Kamali referred to the latest number of active factories in licorice products as being 14, and added, “The annual capacity for the production of licorice powder and extract of these factories is estimated as 18,350 tonnes.”
According to him, next year some more of these factories start operating, therefore, the aforementioned number will be considered as the minimum capacity of the present production.
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of licorice explained, “Almost 70 percent of the capacity of Iran’s licorice powder and extracts are located in Fars province and the rest are in Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad and Kerman provinces.”
He indicated Iran’s export situation of licorice in the decades between 2005-2015 as, “In the last 4 years, we have had an average export of 6,600 tonnes, but each year, we have faced a decrease in the number of exports, declining to 5,900 tonnes in 2015. The monetary value of these transactions too, have decreased from 44 million dollars in 2012 to 33 million dollars in 2015.”
Kamali further noted, “There has been a decline in this field since 2012. In the current year too, it seems that there has not been any development in the process.”
He regarded the 14 companies in this field as being disproportionate to the raw materials existing in Iran and said,”Several companies have inclined to import licorice based on certain necessities, and so they have made an effort to cover part of the capacities to lead to the export of the products as well.”
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of licorice indicated that the share of the export of licorice powder and extract is 95 percent of the manufactured products and went on to say, “The existing 14 companies in this field export the main part of their products as powder and other products taken from licorice.”
He considered Iran’s position in the field of licorice as suitable and added, “Among all the medicinal plants of Iran, licorice is regarded as second place after saffron and if we view this matter from wild plant perspective, licorice will take the first place.”
Due to Iran’s position of licorice export, Kamali requested that there needs to be a specific outlook on policy-making and the 6th Development Plan especially Medicinal Plants National Document.
He stressed, “The Licorice Union is prepared to fulfill the main goals indicated in the Medicinal Plants National Documents for licorice plant and its processing, if there is the support of the official organizations.”
According to the secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of licorice, in Iran’s 4th National Congress on Medicinal Plants, four plants have been introduced as national plants, one of which is Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Others were pomegranate, saffron and Rosa damascena.
He indicated that 2004 was when the Licorice Union was established in Iran, and said, “This has been deemed valuable, since export is considered as a difficult and complicated task, and we both industrially produced licorice powder and extract and export them. Both of which are great challenges.”
Kamali mentioned that the effectiveness of the domestic production is based on domestic policies such as the impact of the Reform Plan, the increase of the fuel rate, etc. Additionally, we encounter difficult rivalry in the world of export, and the domestic policies directly affect its steadiness or decrease.
He stated, “Provided that we lose the export market, our rivals will not easily allow us to return to it. Therefore, considering our country’s position in the world, we strongly urge to make national and international plans for licorice by consulting the Union.”
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice stressed, “Whatever demands that the domestic market has we are able to respond to and we welcome them. We are prepared to encourage the public and the companies by culturalization, to use licorice powder and extract, either as industrialized forms or in traditional medicine.
Kamali referred to the fact that, annually at least one of the companies in the field of licorice is chosen as the best national exporter, then added, “This matter represents the position of these companies and the need for them to have certain required conditions and assets.”
As stated by him, licorice plant is used in traditional medicine, pharmacy, food, health and cosmetic and cigarette industries as well as having other applications.
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice referred to this range of application and consumption as an indication of this plant’s importance in the world and that Iran still requires to put more effort into processing this plant even after the phase of making it into powder or taking the extracts.
He continued to say, “The truth is that it is over 40 years that we have been able to produce the licorice powder.”
He said, “It seems that we need to be more willing to help improve this process. Provided that we have the support of National Council for Science and Technology Development of Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine, we will be able to include the manufacture of more valuable products in our agenda.”
Kamali specified that there is good knowledge and experience in the factories of Iran which are manufacturing licorice products, therefore, the support of National Council for Science and Technology Development of Medicinal Plants will be extra necessary from the viewpoint of research and technology improvement for some of the subsequent products. Particularly the medicinal aspect of this plant is of great significance.
Based on the data from one Japanese manufacturer, he explained about the medicinal applications of licorice plant and said, “The twelve properties of this plant which indicate a vast range of qualities, represent a variety of chemical compounds which exist in licorice.”
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice said, “This plant has global importance and a lot of countries have conducted research on it. Among the countries we can name, The USA, China, Japan, European countries , etc. all of which are Licorice consumers of some kind.”
He went on to say, “By benefiting from these researches, we can channel our energy into aspects from which we can increase the value added.”
Opportunities for Licorice Plant in Iran
Kamali introduced the opportunities of licorice plant in Iran as follows: One of the best varieties of licorice plant in the world is in Iran due to its suitable climate, Iran’s long history of the licorice powder and extract industry and its global trading, bringing currency with licorice industry and its distinctive position among the Iranian medicinal plants (after saffron).
Other opportunities of this plant are: the possibilities of producing medicinal plants and using them in traditional medicine, the existence of experts in the licorice industry, the existence of a suitable global market for licorice powder and extract and the related products with clear plan and support.
Challenges Facing Licorice Plant
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice expressed the challenges facing this plant in Iran as follows: the shortage and the declining tendency of licorice (raw material), the increase in the price of licorice due to the rise in the related elements such as, tractor fuel, laborer wage, transportation to the factory, warehousing, etc.
He named other challenges for this plant as: the increase in the price of the foreign licorice due to inconsistencies in domestic policies, such as obtaining warranty four times the incoming salary and putting this root in goods of group 10 for temporary import. Also, the high commercial profit, ascending exchange rates, the basis of pricing , which is high, in Iran’s Customs, etc. Furthermore, the global competition has been effective in this regard as well.
Shortage of capital in the required circulation for supplying licorice, lack of cultivation pattern plans for cultivation of Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) plant in Iran, insufficiency of a comprehensive outlook (as in national meetings, etc) considering Iran’s share in the global market, absence of a supporting package to sustain and develop export, lack of concentration on selling and marketing in the global markets, are all among other challenges that Kamali indicated.
He further added, “The low level of technology in some of the manufacturing industries of licorice powder and extract, deficiencies in financial sources to commence and complete research activities for cultivation and processing of licorice, absence of support in transfer of the latest technology, problems of transferring foreign currencies and lack of exchange rate stability, are the challenges in Iran facing this plant.
Strategies to Overcome the Existing Challenges Facing Licorice Plant
The secretary of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice presented some strategies to overcome some of the existing challenges, including: assistance in establishing a research institute for processing valuable medicinal and industrial products using licorice, the acceptance of licorice as an agricultural plant by Ministry of Agriculture Jihad and allocating seeds and other elements for its cultivation and revival, availability of banking facilities similar to other agricultural items, investment for the transfer of modern irrigation technology to cultivate and revive licorice plant in order to optimize the water resources available and domesticate this plant, supporting the transfer of the latest technology for those value-added products.
He enumerated the following strategies for challenges facing this plant: allocating lands for factories cultivating licorice plant, cultivation promotion of licorice plant considering the domestic and foreign experiences of the Iranian Production and Export Union of Licorice, assistance in reforming the system of marketing by establishing a joint marketing and sales company with the management of Licorice Union, information provision and covering of part of the consulting and market research costs in order to supply the raw materials by joint collaboration from foreign resources, economizing the import of licorice from foreign countries, the inclusion of the Union in fundamental decision making for licorice technological industry (in the form of national meetings and other similar meetings of the National Council for Science and Technology Development of Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine, Vice-presidency for Science and Technology).