Weather issues in Africa causes challenges for the herb market right during their busiest time of the year. Saul Isaacs is from Agriver, an Israeli company that works with growers in both Israel and Africa.
Saul explains why he has been working with growers in Kenya and Ethiopia alongside the growers in Israel: “In the past few years, growers in Africa have been switching from growing flowers to growing herbs. The flower market was mostly saturated, but there was still lots of room in the herb market and so it has been seeing a lot of growth in Africa.”
He continues: “In Israel, the opposite is happening and many growers are actually switching to other products. The labor is much more expensive in Israel and herbs are a very labour intensive crop, so it is much less profitable for growers in Israel.
"That is why we work with growers in both Africa and Israel. It is also good to have growers in different countries because when the crop having issues in one origin, we can source it from our other origins – for example, our customers might receive mint from Israel because the Kenyan mint isn’t top quality, but the next week it could be the other way around. So working with the different origins enables us to give a consistent supply with the best possible quality.”
Excessive rain in Kenya
Kenya and Ethiopia have been seeing a lot of rain – this has even causing flooding in Kenya – and this has made it very difficult for growers to be able to harvest their product.
Saul shares: “We have never seen rain like this before in these areas. We grow our herbs both indoors, with coverings such as net-houses, as well as on the open field. It all depends on the variety, because some herbs just grow better outdoors while others perform better when they’re covered. But both the outdoor and the indoor varieties are very difficult to harvest because of the weather.”
Busses with workers need to be pulled by tractors to arrive at the location.
“The growers can’t harvest the herbs because the fields are flooded and the growers can’t get inside of the net-houses because it is too muddy or flooded. Then the other issue is logistical: getting the workers to and from the farm, and the product to the packhouses.
"The workers have to be transported on tractors because the busses can’t get through in the weather. Sometimes the harvesting has to be done at night time because it is the only time the rain lets up, but that is problematic for the quality of the product. Some varieties need to be harvested at very specific times of day to have the best quality and we are not able to abide by that now,” he explains.