Dutch herb specialist, Greenfresh, has always focused strongly on cultivation in Eastern Africa. Kenya is their top country of origin, supplemented by Tanzania and Uganda. The limited airfreight capacity hasn't made things easy recently. That's resulted in sharp price increases. This was a turning point for Willem Kea. "We've opted to go 200% for premium quality. The product must be exceptional, or we don't even start with it. We don't mind fighting for quality and service. But, we no longer do so for the price."
"The Kenyan cultivation season is currently rainy. But it's, fortunately, going well. On the farms, we must, of course, consider all the distance measures. That does cause a little pressure in some spaces. Airfreight capacity is also still very limited from Kenya. That means prices have risen absurdly. Lots of charters are being used for freight transport. We are, however, sticking to the fixed lines."
"We've been working with these since day one. These are all direct flights to Amsterdam. This significantly benefits the herbs' quality and shelf-life. Shipments are also often being left in Africa. So we hear from our flower and bean colleagues. Luckily, we're still getting a fair amount of our goods. Freight capacity's expected to increase from the end of next month," says Willem.
Greenfresh has also always focused more on supplying herbs to the hospitality industry than, for example, the retail channels. "Most of our herbs end up on consumers' plates. This is either via exporters or hospitality channels. These herbs go to the Benelux. But also to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia as well as overseas destinations."
"Couple the lockdown with the limited airfreight. That meant we're in a position that was hard hit," admits Willem. "People are struggling and are sitting with suppliers for longer, as are their suppliers. It is, therefore, essential that they get robust products. Fortunately, the measures have been gradually eased. We see the hospitality market is recovering faster than expected. Especially pre-packaged herbs are taking off well again."
"The product's cost price has, however, risen sharply. That has to be passed along. That's why we want to deliver only the crème-de-la-crème. We've received many remarks about the price increase in recent weeks. But, I've not heard anyone complain about the goods delivered. We're getting only positive responses about that. We've done decent volumes in mass trade. But, we're also gaining new clients who are 100% committed to quality."
"The demand for packaged herbs has also skyrocketed. Packing the product benefits its shelf-life, quality, appearance, and stock convenience. It offers added value for wholesalers. The exporters we supply also export overseas. Not to be negative about European herbs, but African herbs are more robust and store better. That's why our partners there get preference." According to him, another trend is that selling mixed packs fulfills a need. "Many of our clients sell directly to consumers. Small packages with, say, a salad or barbecue mix always do very well," Willem concludes.