Paraguay promotes its stevia

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags South america

Growing consumer preference for natural products, as well as
increasing concerns related to weight and disease, are making the
herbal stevia more and more sought after.

This is having a spin-off effect in Latin America, where the Reuters news agency reported today on Paraguayan farmers looking to cash in on the native plant long used by Guarani Indians in the region. As global demand for functional and so-called natural ingredients grows, so too do the potential business opportunities for South American communities. This has been especially pertinent for those located in the Amazon Basin or the Andean region. According to the Reuters report by Daniela Desantis, the Paraguayan government recently offered to be a leading stevia provider for The Coca-Cola Company, as well as claimed to have opened up a $2mn credit line to encourage production. The officials are reported as having said they are looking to expand stevia plantations from the current 3,200 acres to 123,500 acres. Stevia, the 'sweet herb', is derived from the South American plant stevia rebaudiana and is said to have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. As a sweetener, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations. It is not currently approved in the United States or Europe as a food additive, due to a lack of adequate information on its safety. However, the ingredient is approved as a food additive in around a dozen other countries, including Japan, Brazil and China. In the US, stevia is approved for use as a dietary supplement. It has so far been available in 'green' stores, where a niche sector of health-aware consumers has traditionally purchased it for its sweetener properties.

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