MADAGASCAR, Madagascar (Reuters) – Madagascar’s herbal medicine sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Africa and is being eyed as a lucrative alternative to imported drugs for the poor, a government official said on Tuesday.
“There is a huge demand for herbal medicine in Madagascar, especially in rural areas, and we believe that the medicinal products are of great value to the health and social fabric of our country,” said Karmapa Dube, the minister of agriculture and the country’s chief health officer.
“We are trying to expand the market by selling to rural communities, but we have some challenges.
It’s not possible to produce herbal medicines in Madagascar at present,” he said.
Madagascar’s government has been in the process of transforming its economy, from exporting sugar to creating its own ethanol-based fuel and exporting its first diesel.
“Madagascar is now facing the challenge of importing its medicines and other raw materials,” Dube told a news conference.
“It is also important to remember that herbal medicine is not a prescription product, it’s a therapeutic product and is not covered by insurance.”
A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The United States and other countries have imposed strict restrictions on Madagascar’s sale of medicines, while some Western European countries have said they will restrict imports.
“This is the second year in a row that Madagascar has been a source of imports of pharmaceutical products,” Duba said.
“The country is a producer of pharmaceuticals, including in the areas of pain medicine, blood pressure medication, and anti-inflammatories,” he added.
The minister said the government was looking for more qualified people to join the sector, which has attracted about 1.2 million jobs and about 100,000 new jobs since 2011.
(Reporting by Kambali Gutham, writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Robert Birsel)