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     What characterizes trade in natural products?

     Reliable statistics on trade in natural products do not exist. Most natural products are traded within various industries and therefore with various end uses. Moreover, the lack of harmonized definitions makes it difficult to collect and obtain market information. Most natural products are traded in rather small quantities. The general direction of trade in these products is from developing to developed countries. Some products do reach substantial levels, such as honey, gum arabic, rattan, forest nuts and mushrooms, medicinal plants, essential oils, and pharmaceutical products. Most are exported in raw or semi-processed form. Trade in natural products cover a wide range of sectors, including the pharmaceutical, herbal medicine, personal care and cosmetics, chemicals and household products, and food industry sectors. However, the supply channels for raw materials may be similar and wholesalers, including exporters, traders, brokers and agents, may sell to a range of different industries. Trade data are rarely collected or published at a national level. Much production and consumption are at subsistence level. National legislation and policies often do not provide frameworks for a rational and sustainable use of a wild resource. A general picture is that there is increased emphasis on safety, efficacy and quality, which has resulted in more research and development, a shift towards standardised products, and requirements for high-quality raw materials. Sustainability is also an increasingly important factor, especially regarding the environment from which natural products originate.

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