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UK: Basil short due to Israeli weather

Fresh Guernsey Herbs has been growing herbs for more than 25 years on Guernsey, part of the Channel Islands. As well as growing over thirty different types of herbs the company also imports from Israel to supplement supply in the off season.

"Supply is a bit short at the moment, and due to weather conditions in Israel the quality won't improve much from now till Christmas. Basil, which is a very important part of everyone's order (up to 20%), is especially short just now," according to Siegi Moherndl, Sales Director.

Guernsey Herbs grows 20 acres of herbs under glass and exports to the UK market. Moherndl says that despite the island's proximity to France, the UK remains their main market, "We have strong connections with the UK. The French have a large domestic supply of herbs and the market is very competitive. Being much further south our climate is better than the UK, we have no extreme temperatures here, in the winter it only gets down to around 5°C and up to 24-6°C in the summer, great for growing herbs. We can supply high quality herbs to the UK.

All of the herbs are grown under glass, years ago is was mainly tomatoes and flowers which were grown in the Channel Islands but not any more.

"We decided to change over to herbs 26 years ago, not much else is grown in Guernsey these days. There are still some specialised tomato and pepper growers but not many," explains Moherndl. "Competition from Spain, The Canaries and Holland caused the price to drop and in addition the freight charges went up."

He says the only disadvantage of growing on the island is the need to ship everything across the channel, in the last few weeks there has been a lot of poor weather which has made it tricky.

The increase in demand for herbs in the last few years can be put down to cookery programs, according to Moherndl. "I'm very grateful to cookery programs as there are far more fresh herbs being used than ever before, before it was limited to just a few, such as parsley, now we grow around 30 different types of herbs, there is so much going on, this is down to the TV chefs and people eating out more and then trying the dish out at home."

As well as the various herbs packed at different weights, the company also does bags of mixed herbs. This is mainly for the local retail trade, there are mixes for fish, poultry, curry, salads and many more. The Christmas Stuffing mix will be the big one in the coming weeks, containing parsley, sage and thyme, this one is very popular at this time of the year.

"In December thousands are sold, we have always done mixes, and have supplied Waitrose in Guernsey for years. We don't export a lot of mixes, it is a very local thing. As for changes in packaging, the retail side has kept very much to 20gr punnets of herbs, but people are now buying basil, parsley and coriander in pots or 100g bags, but for herbs like oregano or marjoram 20g in enough each time," explains Moherndl.

According to him another big thing just now is edible flowers, "We have always grown them but they have really taken off in the last two seasons. We have increased production, we are probably doing 5 or 6 times more than we did before. They are mainly used by caterers for decoration, but they are also sold by local supermarkets."

For more information:
Siegi Moherndl
Fresh Guernsey Herbs
Tel: +44 (0) 1481 256891

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