Camstar Herbs

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Camstar Herbs's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Camstar Herbs is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director EdwardStarke
Growing in scale
Since the 1890s, CEO Edward Starke’s family have been in
the essential oils business. His great-grandfather, Augustus
Bruce Starke, became an established supplier of essential
oils and food ingredients in 1899. He purchased Chestnuts Farm
in 1925 for his son Ronald to set up a growing and distilling
operation concentrating on culinary and botanical herbs and
flowers. Successive generations of the Starke family continued
in this tradition – one that continues to this day in the form of
Camstar Herbs Ltd.
Since our origins, the growing principles have remained the same, although a
great deal has changed in regard to mechanisation and the scale of the operation.
Our ethos of sustainability has also fundamentally changed in order to satisfy the
requirements of multinational blue-chip clients, as well as meeting our responsibility
to the environment by working with our growers. By adopting a strict seven-year
rotation, we are able to sustainably grow the required acreage without the issue of
soil-borne diseases typical of poor rotation such as root rot.
Generally, our growers will rotate into cereal crops such as wheat and barley as well
as oil seed rape and sugar beet. Within our production, the unwanted stalk element
of the herb is discarded and taken by bulker truck to be fermented to produce gases
that are burnt and used to generate electricity, thus reducing our carbon footprint.
Drawing from the past, looking to the future
Our production today draws from a cultivation of over 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares)
of culinary herbs including parsley, coriander, fenugreek, dill, camomile, tarragon
and chervil, of which Camstar controls the process, from seed supply to agronomy,
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1979
»Based in Suffolk
»Services: Production of dried
herbs, spices, vegetables, fruit
and essential oils
»No. of employees: 80
»Great-great grandfather
established the family business
in 1899; every generation
since has been involved in the
Camstar Herbs
Highlighting best practice
harvesting and processing. This level of
control enables Camstar to make many
guarantees in relation to freedom from
gluten and any other allergens such
as celery, mustard and dairy, which is
becoming essential in our industry.
My father, Richard Starke, ran the
business from 1963 to 2008 and
contributed hugely to the unique
technologies of manufacture that we
use today and that enable sterilisation
of the product within the processing
system, resulting in a product suitable
for use in ready-to-eat products
without requiring further treatment.
Since 2008 we have gone on to
invest in foreign body removal
technologies such as insect removal
and optical sorting/air jet removal.
We believe we offer the cleanest and
safest dehydrated culinary herbs in
the industry, a claim that we feel is
validated by the increasing supply to
clients such as Unilever, Nestle and
McCormick worldwide.
The oldest remaining part of our
business is the distillation side, which
has been operating in a very similar
manner since 1925. In that time there
have been highs and lows in the
market, one of which was during the
Second World War, when the market
for our camomile oil collapsed and
left us with over 100 acres of mature
flowers that we had to find a market
for quickly. My great grandfather
secured a contract with Boots, the
chemist, for packs of dried camomile
flowers, which required more than 100
people to hand pick and machine dry
on our first very small dryer.
Today, this side of the business has
seen somewhat of a resurgence due
to increased demand for truly pure
essential oil from the aromatherapy
industry; more than 80 per cent of
our essential oil crop is exported
overseas, with around 40 per cent of
our dehydrated herbs being exported
to the USA and Asia, creating around
£6 million worth of export income for
the UK.
With the current loss of actives for
weed control in herb crops, especially
field-grown parsley, economic
production is very challenging. Linuron
has been the mainstay of weed control
in many herb crops and umbellifer root
crops such as parsley, coriander, carrots
and parsnips. The loss of linuron will
cause many problems going forward
with no suitable replacement available.
While it may appear on the surface
that we have a good toolbox of actives
available to herb growers (due to
the way EAMUs are generated in the
UK) it’s not as extensive as it seems.
In general, we can split the UK herb
equipment for our needs
Our ethos of
has also
changed in
order to
satisfy the
crops into umbelliferous species such
as parsley, coriander and dill, and
labiate perennial crops such as sage,
oregano and mint. The UK approvals
are then set for a generic herb list,
which includes both umbellifers and
labiate herbs. Unfortunately, some
actives, such as Bentazone, are
approved for use across all herbs for
a range of weeds including mayweed
and volunteer oil seed rape. It is in
fact phytotoxic to umbellifers such
as parsley and coriander and will kill
them. Moreover, Clopyralid, useful
for controlling groundsel, mayweeds
and thistles, is also phytotoxic to
umbellifers. In fact, we use both
actives to control umbellifer weeds in
crops like onions.
Another huge challenge in using
some of the remaining actives that are
approved is being able to manage the
MRLs, many of which are set at limit of
detection or LOD. As we know, MRLs
are not set at a level at which human
health is affected, but are more of a
trading standard issue, to ensure we
use actives within the terms of the
approval. However, this makes some
completely unusable, even when
used according to the approval and
when engaged in good agricultural
practise, which further restricts our
tool box – examples are chlorpropham
Another challenge is the increasing
amount of groundsel we are having
to deal with. Groundsel is ubiquitous
across our soils, especially light
soil, which is favoured for herb
production. As well as being a physical
contaminant, groundsel produces
pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are liver
poisons and a danger to human health
according to a recent EFSA report.
This means that we have to operate a
zero tolerance for groundsel, and with
very few actives available to effectively
control these prolific weeds, they have
to be physically removed either by
inter-row hoes, by hand or both.
Severalcountries in the EU have
instigated an emergency use of
Assulam for grounsel control in
herbs; this has not been the case in
the UK. All these different factors
mean economic production of herbs
in the UK is becoming increasingly
A strong product means a
strong future
Whatever happens, we have a unique
product with a strong model. Our
sterilisation techniques have won the
confidence of many large companies
and will continue to do so. Indeed,
the techniques are strong enough
that they match the food standards of
most jurisdictions in the world, which
is particularly attractive to blue-chip
companies that ship globally. This is in
contrast to California or some parts of
Asia, whose methods of sterilising are
often incompatible with EU regulations.
This, combined with our excellent
product, puts us in good stead for
the future, whatever difficulties
come our way. By committing
ourselves to excellence in this way,
we are projecting that we will expand
between 50 per cent and 60 per cent
over the next couple of years or so.
Our production
today draws
from a
cultivation of
over 3,000 acres
(1,200 hectares)
of culinary herbs
including parsley,
fenugreek, dill,
tarragon and
Our latest new plant

This article was sponsored by Camstar Herbs. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy