Kenyan herb exporter looks to expand to US and Scandinavia

A Kenyan grower and exporter, who currently supplies the European market with fresh-cut herbs, is looking to expand to the US and Scandinavian markets. However, this is easier said than done, due to expensive airfreight costs, says Solomon Mumbi, CEO of Avohass, who are growers and exporters of fresh herbs from Kenya to Europe.

(left) Solomon Mumbi, CEO of Avohass, and (right) Domonic Chege from Zwei, also based in Kenya.

“We grow and export basil, rosemary, mint, sage, oregano, and tarragon. All these cut herbs we export when it’s winter in Europe from September to May. The last few years, airfreight was difficult, but we managed, even when the cost of airfreight tripled. While clients complained, they needed the product and needed to buy at these elevated prices,” says Mumbi during an interview held at the 2023 version of Macfruit in Italy.

In Europe, their biggest competition is from Israel and South America, while in Italy, they produce year-round and are very nationalistic, preferring locally produced products, says Mumbi. “Our advantage is that our produce is 99% organic. We have all the needed certifications. European clients also choose us for our terms of payment, which is in advance. We want to venture into the US and capture the Scandinavian markets, but our biggest challenge is the airfreight costs. The logistics are our biggest challenge. We use Qatar, KLM, and Kenya Airways. We want to move away from air cargo to sea, but we need to have the transit days to be reduced. We need reefer containers. The controlled atmosphere (CA) containers are very expensive, but still much cheaper than airfreight,” explains Mumbi.

He says that expanding is good, but it also depends on what the market wants and what they are able to supply. While many producers in Kenya have turned to lucrative avocado farming, it does not worry Mumbi. “When there is a peak in the market, we have enough supply. We always have a program to supply. We have contracted about 200 farmers and source from them if we are short. Kenya is a big country, so everyone can’t do avocados. There is plenty of water in Kenya. We have natural springs, and rivers.”

Biggest challenges
“Our biggest challenge is logistics. Our office is based at the airport where we have our own logistics company. In Kenya, we always have to compete with the flowers for cargo space,” concludes Mumbi.

For more information:
Solomon Mumbi
Tel.: + 254 726 877 189

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