Basil farming in Kenya has seen significant growth over the past few years, as farmers increasingly recognize the herb’s potential both locally and internationally. Known for its aromatic leaves and culinary versatility, basil (Ocimum basilicum) has become a valuable crop for many Kenyan farmers, especially those looking to diversify their agricultural ventures. In Kenya, the local market consumes about 10% of the produce, while a staggering 90% is exported to countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and France Basil Farming: A Fragrant Success Story in Kenyan Agriculture

The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture recognizes herbs like basil as a “virgin opportunity” for farmers. Statistics paint a promising picture. While local consumption is picking up, around 90% of Kenyan basil finds its way to international markets, particularly Europe. A report from the Nation highlights Ruth, a Kenyan farmer, harvesting 800kg of mint (a basil relative) from a half-acre plot, fetching a price of 384 Kenya Shillings per kilo. This translates to a potential revenue of Sh307,200 per harvest cycle, showcasing the crop’s profitability.

As of 2024, the average price for fresh basil leaves at the local market is approximately 200 Kenya Shillings per kilogram. For dried basil, which has a longer shelf life and higher demand in international markets, prices can go up to 1,200 Kenya Shillings per kilogram. Export prices are even more lucrative, with top-quality dried basil fetching between 1,500 and 2,000 Kenya Shillings per kilogram on the international market.

According to recent statistics, the area under basil cultivation in Kenya has expanded significantly. As of 2023, it is estimated that over 1,500 hectares are dedicated to basil farming, up from just 800 hectares in 2018. This growth can be attributed to the rising demand for basil in both local and international markets. The local market demand is fueled by the increasing popularity of Italian cuisine and other international dishes among Kenyans, while the international demand is driven by Europe and the Middle East.

The herb thrives in warm temperatures, ideally between 18°C and 30°C, a range that many Kenyan regions enjoy. Additionally, the country’s slightly acidic to neutral soil pH is well-suited for basil’s growth. This eliminates the need for extensive soil modifications, making basil farming a more accessible option.

While seemingly simple, basil farming requires attention to detail. Most Kenyan farmers utilize greenhouses to create ideal growing conditions. Seeds are sown in trays and nurtured for three weeks before transplanting into the controlled environment of the greenhouse. This protects the crop from pests like caterpillars and whiteflies, common threats to basil outdoors.

The international market for herbs often demands organic produce. Kenyan farmers are embracing this trend, using natural pest control methods to ensure their basil is free of harmful chemicals. This not only protects the environment but also fetches premium prices.

Challenges in Basil Farming

Despite its profitability, basil farming in Kenya is not without challenges. One of the primary issues is pest and disease management. Basil is susceptible to pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and leaf miners, as well as diseases like Fusarium wilt and downy mildew. Effective pest and disease management strategies, including the use of organic pesticides and crop rotation, are essential to maintaining healthy crops.

Another challenge is the fluctuating market prices. While the demand for basil is generally high, prices can be unstable due to factors such as weather conditions, which affect supply, and competition from other herb-producing countries. Farmers need to stay informed about market trends and adopt strategies such as contract farming to secure stable prices.

Future Prospects

The future of basil farming in Kenya looks promising. With continued support from government and non-governmental organizations, farmers can improve their practices and access better markets. Innovations in farming techniques, such as greenhouse farming and hydroponics, are also set to boost production by providing more controlled growing environments.

Moreover, there is growing interest in organic basil, driven by the global trend towards healthier and more sustainable food options. Organic basil commands higher prices and has a significant market in Europe and North America. Kenyan farmers who adopt organic farming practices could tap into this lucrative market, further boosting their incomes.


Basil farming in Kenya represents a dynamic and growing sector with substantial economic potential. From its expanding cultivation areas and increasing market demand to its role in creating employment and boosting farmer incomes, basil is set to become a staple in Kenyan horticulture. While challenges such as pest management and market fluctuations persist, the future remains bright, with opportunities for innovation and market expansion promising to elevate Kenya’s basil industry to new heights.

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