Israeli herb growers expand production in Kenya

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Israeli herb growers expand production in Kenya

Israeli herb specialist ADA Fresh is to replicate its success for growing basil in the hot and arid conditions of the Arava desert, with plans to grow the herb in Kenya. 

Avi Kadan

Off the back of signing a new deal to ramp up production of basil in Kenya, ADA Fresh managing director Avi Kadan tells Fresh Fruit Portal how he’s investing in growing the herb, the demand for which is set to thrive in the years ahead.

“We plan to double our volume in the next three years,” he said during Fruit Logistica in Berlin last month.

“This means, in order to remain with the same volume for retail, going from 1,200 [metric] tons (MT)  a year to 2,400MT a year over a that period of time, all of which will be grown in Kenya.”

Why Kenya?

Over the years ADA Fresh has become an expert and leading grower and supplier of fresh herbs, produced in Israel with 27 varieties on offer in various packaging. It’s a labor-intensive cultivation with special care needed for harvesting, packaging and shipments.

Already working with partners in Kenya for fresh flowers, Kadan was looking for the perfect location to expand basil production outside of Israel and Kenya is a good fit, he says.

“For the last few years in Kenya growers have started to produce Israeli varieties of basil," he said.

“They are cheaper, they can supply all year around and because of the climate in Kenya, it’s a very good location for the herb.

“And with the political situation, for example what happens with the U.K. now, it’s a big opportunity for us. That’s why I made a decision to invest my time, management time and my money in Kenya.”

Kadan visited the country in search of land to grow and early last month finalized a plan to buy up 94 hectares. Plantings are underway and harvesting should begin this autumn in preparation for the Christmas period.

“We hope everything is going to be okay because in October we will be ready to start with basil and we want to cover 40 hectares of basil," he said.

“We found the growing conditions. For example we went to the south of Kenya and found an area that is very dry, half like the desert, very similar to the growing area in Israel, with the same humidity levels and cold nighttime temperatures.”

In terms of logistics, the basil - which has a delicate shelf life and needs to be transported carefully and quickly according to Kadan - will be flown to Liège in Belgium or Amsterdam before trucked to a location close to Rotterdam and distributed from there.

“We will start on a small scale, let’s say 15% of the business, to make sure that we will not let down the grower, but the idea is that we can secure supply when we are sure that the source of Israel is 50% and the source of Kenya is another 50%.

“We need two legs because of the cold weather in Israel or heavy rain in Kenya. Like this we are much safer to better supply supermarkets and other customers all year round.”

“There will also be processing with two machine lines pre-packing for the retailers.

Kadan explains how by joining forces with rose-growing partners in Kenya, he hopes to significantly expand basil production and supply in a sustainable way.

“Kenya is not necessarily an easy place to grow, but it’s a good business environment. My partners are flower growers and farmers. One of them is one of the biggest rose grower in Kenya, we all know what we are talking about and hopefully we are going to do it all in the right way.

“The market is there, no doubt about it. We need to secure the supply, that’s the first step.

“There is a lot to do, this is just the beginning.”

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