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The Small Vendor Import Situation

Thoughts and Rumors On the Kratom Import Situation

The kratom community online has been under fire from several directions recently. A number of dubious anonymous and hired sources of disinformation, impossible to vett, have been thrown into the conversation surrounding the question, "What the hell is going on with imports?"

Some vendors are having no problem receiving their shipments, while others -- who think they are equally diligent at following the FDA's published rules -- are having shipments held up on seemingly political or other procedural grounds.

Could The Troubled Vendors Be Missing Some Key Fact?

One factor in the FDA's displeasure at seeing so much kratom arriving in the United States, was mentioned plainly in the most recent FDA update of Import Alert 54-15. It noted that the FDA is now watching Facebook for evidence of which importers are selling kratom for human consumption, a use of the herb that the FDA has not yet approved.

The smallest, newest vendors seem the most threatened. More than one has mentioned the possibility they may need to quit the business. Many of their customers, who perhaps have chosen them for their low prices, good service, and more, are frightened to lose their trusted source of a plant that has been a life-saver for so many of us. It's understandable.

Some others are actively sowing the hints that this is all part of a giant conspiracy by some of the biggest vendors, who are rumored to have stocked up massively, while persuading the Indonesian government to block the smaller vendors' shipments. The fact that this is an old rumor which has already been debunked, doesn't stop them from spreading it again to explain the truth in a way that is palatable to them.

Conspiracy talk is popular when we are confronted with a difficult situation to explain with the limited facts available. It is comforting, even though it makes us bitter, but it seems believable because we've seen things like it happen before. Some of the facts and circumstances match, though not all, but many jump to conclusions anyway.

The fact that a rumor is somewhat plausible, however, does not mean the rumor is true. I think one reason some people prefer to believe kratom conspiracy theories is that they take our mind off what we might be doing that is bringing misfortune upon us.

Recently another part of the rumor mill was apparently trying to get us to believe that much of the imported kratom might be contaminated with synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs, which some thought might have been an attempt to stampede a frightened consumer or two into the products of those trusted vendors who test their product. My impression was that this disinformation campaign was a resounding flop, as well it should be.

Like any persuasive rumor, there are usually other explanations that should also be considered. Such as, "It could be our own fault."

Still another perspective is worth considering: The Evolution of a Booming Wild West Scenario into a Prosperous, but more Orderly, Regulated Market. This is what I believe we are witnessing.

There are many who got into the "Kratom Gold-Rush" early, made a killing, and now have the resources ($$$) to pay for attorneys and consultants familiar with FDA practices, as well as customs brokers to finagle (and possibly bribe) their way through the Indonesian botanical exportation rules and into the U.S..

Some newer vendors may be spending their profits on toys and themselves instead of investing in upgrades in much-needed advice to ensure the continuation of their business.

This financial advantage of being able to pay for good advice and connections may explain a lot of the discrepancy between the success of the larger, or at least more savvy, vendors vs. the smaller, newer ones.

My sharp-eyed associate, Susan Ash, did a quick survey of yesterday's chatter in the Facebook groups, where the talk was all about one vendor who was threatening to quit the kratom vending business because the FDA was seizing -- or at least taking their sweet time releasing -- his shipments. His doom & gloom talk was amplified by many, who were concerned about losing their favorite low-price vendor.

Susan noted that there were only about 4 or 5 businesses that were actually hurt by the FDA's confusing import policies, though many of the consumers were worried that a total shut-down and ban of kratom importation was imminent. Such is the power of destructive fear-mongering in a worried crowd.

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

Some of the bystanders even suggested that the American Kratom Association was trying to "sweep the crisis under the rug", no doubt for some devious, but unspecified reason. Yet another conspiracy rumor was thrown to the hungry crowd!

Susan noted that all of the businesses complaining they were being picked on had these same things in common: The didn't hire qualified advisers (attorneys, FDA consultants, and customs brokers) and they all had their own Facebook groups where people -- their customers -- talk day & night about consuming kratom (the FDA's major hot-button!). I believe Susan has found a clue to why these vendors are singled out for enforcement -- and it shouldn't be a surprise.

To complain that it is unfair is beside the point. What we are seeing is the business equivalent of "natural selection" -- the evolution of a small, informal, easy-going business into a busy, crowded, high-volume business, which forces all parties into making some quick decisions on which packages to let in and which to reject.

The FDA just gave vendors a clue buried in the lines of barred importers in its latest revision of Import Alert 54-15. Why are vendors still associating themselves with groups of their customers who are discussing consuming kratom? Helloooo?!

Though it is not my job or mission (as President of the American Kratom Association) to help vendors run a successful business, it is worth commenting occasionally on what I see going on.

We, at the AKA, support the consumers' interests, but obviously we need successful vendors to accomplish our aims. After all, what is the use of keeping kratom legal, if not enough kratom can be imported to satisfy the growing demand?

The vendors need to have their own co-op or information clearing house to provide them with business strategies that work in today's confusing marketplace. The AKA is trying to encourage the formation of such a co-op -- or perhaps a committee of another existing kratom organization to serve this need.

Hiring attorneys, consultants, and especially customs brokers are what we see the most successful companies doing.

If I were a vendor, that's what I would be doing. As Susan has pointed out recently in a FB post: This is not a low-risk business. To that observation, I will add that, "This is not a low-overhead business anymore, either." Those considering entering kratom vending now should seriously consider the cost projections of what it takes to be successful now and into the future.

It is an evolving system, in which vendors are faced with the choice, "Evolve or Die!"

It is a somewhat chaotic process, with many inconsistencies that make it appear random and unfathomable, but overall it forms a pattern.

The FDA's rules for kratom importation are largely inscrutable to me. I don't have time or the interest to make a detailed study of them. If I were a vendor, though, I would hire someone with that expertise, from who I could learn it.

I am a volunteer for the American Kratom Association and our mission is not to explain to vendors how to run their business effectively. Our top priority is to keep kratom legal in all U.S. states and at the federal level. We have done very well at that, considering the short time we have been in existence. We can't do everything, so we focus on what is most needed that we can do the best.

Vendors must shoulder the responsibility for learning and implementing the processes and procedures they need to survive in today's kratom market. As much as the American Kratom Association would like to help you, we can't give you advice.

I hope these observations will serve to give vendors clues at to how they may finesse their business through a set of problems that may seem insurmountable. Trust me -- They are not. As has been said many times: Success leaves clues. It's always wise to model successful operators who have gone before you. If you find it too costly to do things as the successful businesses do them, you might need to ask yourself if you can afford to be in this business.

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