Supplies of basil could become slimmer as the Easter holiday approaches.
Camilo Penalosa of Infinite Herbs in Miami, FL says basil volume at this time of the year typically comes from Baja California, the interior of Mexico and Colombia. Domestically, Florida and select greenhouses in the U.S. also have supplies. “Right now supplies are coming from Colombia and Mexico though they’ve started their rainy seasons so there might be tighter supplies. But those other areas would be able to compensate for that,” says Penalosa.
Camilo Penalosa of Infinite Herbs says when people buy herbs, basil accounts for 30-35 percent and sometimes even 65-70 percent of the basket.
That said, as restaurants begin opening back up throughout North America, Penalosa says it’s planted basil speculating on a market recovery. “We feel that if the vaccines keep going at the speed they’re going, that the foodservice business picks up and people go out more to eat. Therefore herb demand should increase quite a bit in the next two to three months,” he says.
In general, basil is the most popular herb throughout the year. “Generally, when people buy herbs, more than 30-35 percent of the basket--and sometimes even up to 65-70 percent--is basil,” Penalosa says. Demand also tends to be higher January through to March, months where colder states aren’t planting outdoor gardens yet but are also cooking more indoors. “And in the pandemic, all the herbs in retail have gone up in demand,” he says, adding that distribution of herbs through home delivery cooking kits has also increased.
Interest in Thai
There’s also one particular basil that’s seen a significant increase in demand recently. “Generally there are three commercial basils: Italian, Opal and Thai basil. People have increased their consumption of Thai basil without affecting the consumption of the other basils and it may be because they’re cooking more due to the pandemic. They may want to try more new things,” says Penalosa. “Five years ago, except for the Asian market, there was basically no consumption of Thai basil. And now supermarkets are asking for it.”
Yet, even with these demand increases, prices continue to stay stable for basil.
Looking ahead, Penalosa sees even more demand for basil and other herbs coming in the near future. “I think Easter is going to be much more active this year than last year because restaurants will be using more than last year,” he says. “Last year Easter was pretty much closed. I think the main herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil will go up in demand and mint as well.”