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Rising demand for herbs and spices in local and international markets ignites the farming in Kenya

chia seeds Helitech
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Packed chia seeds, a product of Helitech, a community based organisation in Lari Sub-County, Kiambu County. Prices of herbs and spices are all-time high in local and international markets due to their health and nutrition values. Photo courtesy.

The farming and trading in herbs and spices such as chives, mint, coriander, basil, rosemary and sage among others in Kenya is on the rise thanks to the hiked demand in both the local and international markets that has seen farmers and trades take the venture seriously than before.

According to the growers and dealers, some of these herbs had gone into extension as farmers turned to grains and cereals production. However, of late farmers are taking the venture back on realising its lucrative markets with stable market price as compared to other produce.

“Many growers in the country had left herbs to grow on their own in the bush despite their health and economic returns. But it is encouraging that the farmers are increasingly growing these plants to better their income,” said George Gathuri, herbs and spices value addition manager at Helitech, a community based organisation in Lari Sub-County, Kiambu County.

He says herbs prices do not fluctuate much in market like they do with other vegetables as most of them are sold directly to wholesalers, where the prices are constant and pretty standard through the year.

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The CBO is currently supporting farmers in the area to grow the crops by giving them technical and financial support to buy seedlings and fertilisers among other farm inputs as a way of ensuring better planting materials and production.

The farmers grow chia, basil, fennel, fenugreek, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, mint and oregano among others which the CBO buys from them upon maturity and harvesting to produce powder, flaky, and some oils which they sell to various organic markets and hotels in Nairobi.

“We sell our products to ridgeways market, Pidium in Karen, Bridges Hotel, village open air markets and individuals who order for our products,” said Gathuri.

For bulk buyers, a kilo of any herb goes at Sh800 while others who buy in smaller quantities can spend up to Sh1,500 per kilo.

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The CBO also advertise their products online through social media and farmer events such as field days with plans underway to form a sacco out of the CBO by June this year to enable them fully commercialise the venture.

“Operating under a CBO has been limiting our full potentials. We do not have our own machines to do value addition and instead we have been relying on support from the government agricultural institutions and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT),” said Gathuri.

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International markets

On the other hand, according to Mitos Herbs, a company which specialises in the cultivation of premium quality culinary herbs for export, there is lucrative markets in international markets that farmers can explore.

“Our largest market is the Netherlands but we also export to Germany, Russia, Uk where the demand for herbs is strong and Middle East where coriander probably has a good market,” said Innocent Bosire who works with the company.

The company grow chives, mint, coriander, basil, rosemary, sage, dill and French tarragon among others.

“The cut herbs are all shipped by air, with a shelf life of around a week, once they reach their destination,” said Bosire.

The herbs are sent directly to wholesalers, who then repack them and send them out to their different consumers and our offer depend on demand.

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Gathuri can be reached on +254 701 179490 while Bosire on +254 717 305339

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