Fine herbs have a sweet smell of success
by Carolina Leseigneur
A project by the AFC (Administracion de Fondos de Cestanía, Unemployment Fund Administration), titled “Competitive and sustainable development improvements for the production of fine herbs”, was conducted to determine the potential of fine herbs grown in Chile for international gourmet markets.
The initiative, co-sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture through the FIA (Fundación para la Innovación Agraria, Agricultural Innovation Foundation) and executed by the Universidad Católica de Valparaiso, recommended cultivating species such as bay leaf trees, chives, thyme, tarragon, rosemary and oregano due to their profitability in international and local markets.
Other herbs, such as basil, parsley, mint and sage, are also viable, but in smaller quantities due to greater international competition.
There is an increasing demand for fine herbs in the U.S. and Europe, which is why the specific herbs were highlighted by the project for the gourmet market.
The European Union is the biggest market in the world for fne herbs and spices. Thyme and oregano are the most consumed herbs, though there is also a high demand for the other herbs highlighted in the project.
Three main clients are considered in the project: the industrial market, which represents 50-60% of the market, retail (primarily supermarkets) which represents 30-40% of the market, and catering.
The main on-going objective of this project is to develop specialty certified gourmet products through small producers of the AFC, from the provinces of San Felipe and Los Andes.
A business plan, which takes into account production and marketing, has been developed to aid producers to achieve this objective.
Intially, production is orientated only at local markets for both fresh and dried products, and will gradually be introduced to specialized stores, internet, telemarketing and international markets. The project also aims to direct producers to produce organic gourmet products.
A packaging plant is being developed for this project as well. Local producers will be incorporated into the administration and management, to assist them in developing negotiating and administrative skills to commercialize their products locally and internationally.