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Israel-Gaza war leads to increased demand, record prices for Kenyan herb farmers 

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Kenyan herb growers and exporters are enjoying record prices as Israel’s ongoing offensive on Gaza has left European importers increasingly reliant on their main non-EU supplier of fresh herbs and niche vegetables.

“Kenya, Morocco, Thailand, and Israel are Europe’s main suppliers of herbs. The ongoing war in Gaza has led to a slowdown in Israel’s herb production during the lucrative off-season winter months. As we often compete directly with Israel for access to this lucrative market we have seen prices of some herbs jump by 50 per cent,” explained Michael Ndegwa– Managing Director at Tropics Farm in Ruiru.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI), in 2022, Europe imported Sh615.7M of Israeli herbs. Though a bit more expensive than Kenyan herbs, Israel’s fresh herbs; mostly, basil, chives, mint, and coriander; have enjoyed a strong market in the EU due to their superior quality 

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A digital survey conducted between October 26th-November 5th by the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute established that 89 per cent of Israeli farmers have experienced some form of negative impact due to its ongoing attack on Gaza and 96 per cent expected more in the ensuing three months. This has led to an average 35 per cent drop in production and income for Israeli agriculture, and a nearly 70 per cent drop in production and income for farms near Gaza.

Despite the prices of herbs going up during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers sought more shelf-stable and immune-boosting foods, European lockdowns and export restrictions during this time saw Kenyan herb growers lose millions.

“We lost a lot of ground to Israeli suppliers during and after the pandemic as the country has automated greenhouses that negate human contact, as well as more efficient processing, packing facilities, and international logistics,” Ndegwa informed.

Currently, a kilogram of basil is up between 30 and 80 shillings depending on the payment period. Chives are up from Sh450 to Sh700, Oregano leaves are up 50 per cent to Sh500, and Thyme from Sh250 per kilogram to Sh400.

Michael has also begun growing and sourcing herbs he usually would not deal with. “I am getting orders for Rosemary– a herb that previously didn’t have great demand and we are also looking at getting into Tarragon cultivation by the end of the month as we’ve also had an influx of its orders we are currently unable to meet.”

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However, given the cyclical demand for herbs, he predicts a slowdown in prices from around May as Europe thaws from winter. 

Tropics Farm is also looking to visit with and work with farmers growing mint, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and tarragon.

Tropics Farm (Kimbo, Ruiru). 0711552410

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