Aditya Suhermoko , The Jakarta Post
Herbal medicine, known locally known as jamu, has become increasingly popular recently as global consumer trends turn to nature and 'old wisdom' in search of cures.
Indonesia's major herbal consumers and producers are likely to see jamu getting a stronger foothold this year, with growing demands from both domestic and export markets as well as government support, the jamu association says.
"The jamu industry has good potential for development, with an annual growth of around 20 percent," said Charles Saerang, chairman of the Indonesian Herbal and Traditional Medicines Entrepreneurs Association (GP Jamu).
This year, he said, the country's herbal medicines industry could reach total sales of Rp 5 trillion (US$550.96 million), up 20 percent from Rp 4 trillion in 2007.
As for exports, jamu entrepreneurs have aimed to double last year's US$4 million of exports.
Nyonya Meneer and Sido Muncul, the two largest jamu producers in Indonesia, which export to destinations including Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and the Netherlands, both plan to diversify their export destinations this year.
Another reason to be positive about jamu sales and exports, Charles said, was the new found government support that recently registered copyright for jamu as an Indonesian trademark.
"The government and industry have agreed that 'Jamu' should be recognized as an Indonesian trademark. As the next step, the government must promote jamu to the world," he said.
China's herbal medicine industry grew significantly after it began to get support from the Chinese government, he added.
As its first steps to promote jamu to the rest of the world, the Indonesian government plans to hold an international symposium on Temulawak (Curcuma xanthorrhiza) in late May and an international exhibition on jamu next year.
More than 80 percent of the country's total population (220 million) have consumed jamu--a really huge target market, GP Jamu says.
"In Malaysia, almost half the population consume traditional medicine. Imagine if this happened in Indonesia," Charles said.
Sido Muncul president director Irwan Hidayat believed the country's jamu industry could be developed further.
"Some pharmaceutical companies have introduced semi herbal medicine to cure colds (masuk angin) to compete with jamu. This shows the jamu industry has a huge market," he said.
Currently, Indonesia has some 1,243 jamu producers, 129 of which are large-scale producers. The rest are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating mostly in East and Central Java.
SMEs contribute around 20 percent of the total annual jamu sales nationally.
The industry could employ at least 3 million workers per year, Charles said.
"This number could increase, considering more and more Indonesians take jamu."
He also said the industry planned to acquire more land in East and Central Java because farmers could grow herbs there more easily.
Jamu producers have become more creative with products and packaging, like selling jamu in syrup form. The rising price of medicine has also helped to sway consumers toward traditional medicine, Charles said.
The future, however, was not all rosy for jamu, as producers were challenged to make products that comply with standards set by the Drugs and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM), he said.
Currently, only 10 out of 1,243 jamu producers produce "quality" herbal medicine.
Many unauthorized herbal medicines are distributed nationwide and could threaten the growth of the jamu industry, Charles said.
Sales Performance: - 2006 Rp 3 trillion - 2007 Rp 4 trillion - 2008 Rp 5 trillion (forecast)
Export: - 2007 US$4 million - 2008 US$8 million (forecast)
Big Players: - Martha Tilaar - Mustika Ratu - Sido Muncul - Nyonya Meneer - Jamu Jago