Horticulture

The wonders of Passion Fruit farming in Kenya

Passion fruits have a solid market and the prices are good.

Horticulture farming in Kenya presents a lot of opportunities.  It does not require a lot of capital which means any dedicated beginner farmer can get things up and running in no time. Kenya has a long history of growing horticultural crops due to its favourable climate. The crops being grown in Kenya are Roses, Apples, Arrowroots, Carnations, Avocados, Artichoke, Bananas, Asparagus, Carthamus, Oranges, Mangoes, Bixa, Basil, Chrysanthemums, Cashew nuts, Beetroot, Cabbage, Lettuce, Passion Fruits among others.

The main regions that engage in horticulture farming (Mostly rural areas) include Baringo, Machakos, Kiambu, Makueni, Nyeri, Muranga, Uasin Gishu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Naivasha, Kisii and Nakuru

A report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 2015 amounts the total domestic value earned in 2012 to Ksh 119 Billion with a total production quantity of 12.17 Million Tons whereas the total value of horticultural exports in the same year amounted to Ksh. 89.8 Billion with a total production quantity of 205,800 Tons. That is a lot of money.

Kenya is definitely making money from the horticultural sector, the question is, are you making money? Knowing the right crop to grow is not easy and if you are not careful your agribusiness venture can go sideways for you.

When I perform farm visits and do research, I usually have specific questions which I ask farmers;

  • How many years have you been practicing this venture? (This shows sustainability)
  • How much gross/net profit does it give you yearly?
  • What challenges do you encounter?
  • Is this your main source of income? (This shows the worthiness of the venture).
  • How frequently do you earn your money?

These are just some of the many questions I ask farmers before coming up with a profit and sustainability conclusion. One crop that has recently caught my attention is the Passion Fruit. This crop is a worthy contender in the sustainable category. Most of the farmers I interviewed claimed that they make a stable living out of it. It pays for school fees, farm expenses, bills etc…Some have even grown it for more than 11 years. This consistency was a showed promise. I decided to learn more.

The passion fruit is valued for its intensely amazing flavour and aroma which helps not only in producing a high-quality juice but also in flavouring several other food products. Passion fruits pack a rich amount of Vitamins A and C and carotene which is good for your health. Commercial Processing of yellow passion fruit yields 36% juice, 51% rinds and 11% seeds.

Kenya got a first taste of passion fruits in 1920 for commercial juice processing. It has since proven to grow favourably in 1,200-2,000 altitudes above sea level.

There are two varieties of passion fruits grown in Kenya;

  • Purple passion fruit (Mostly grown in highlands)
  • Yellow passion fruit (Thrives in lowlands)

The passion fruit vine is a shallow rooted, perennial and woody plant that climbs along with structures by means of tendrils. The fruits are nearly round-oval and have a tough rind which is smooth and waxy. The fruit has an aromatic mass of double walled, membranous sacs filled with orange-yellow coloured, pulpy juice and as many as 200 small, hard, dark brown or black seeds.

Passion fruits can be grown using seeds, grafting or cuttings. Grafted seedlings perform better than cuttings.

Economics

According to NAFIS Kenya (National Farmers Information Service), you can get up to 10,000 Kg of Passion Fruits per acre per season. These figures are not set in stone, which means you can get more or less yields depending on your farm management skills.I also factor in crop population. An acre of land requires 800 plants. One plant can give you an average of 13-15kg per season. It can even be more, I am just trying to be realistic.

It takes 6-8 months for you to get the first harvest, after this, you will be harvesting weekly. This means you can get paid weekly or make an arrangement with your buyer to get the money monthly. The choice is yours. When you start harvesting the yield will be low at first then peak, and low yields again. Picture a smooth curve going up then down. The buying price for Passion Fruits in Kenya is usually Ksh 80 per kg.

If these calculations are right your total income will come to 10,000Kg X 80= Ksh 800,000 (Plus or minus, depending with your yields).

It’s difficult to indicate the right amount of money you will spend as the cost of production due to variations but the average total amount will probably come to Ksh 350,000. 800 grafted seedlings take Ksh 40,000 from this amount, the rest are chemicals, irrigation equipment, wooden poles, wires and management fees.

Your net profit will be 800,000-350,000= Ksh 450,000. A big chunk of your money will be eaten by fixed assets during the first year of harvest. You will be able to enjoy most of your money on the 2nd and 3rd year. The economic life of Passion Fruit vines is considered as 3 years. However, the vines can still produce fruit after this period but it’s usually better to propagate new passion fruits and start the process all over again.

From the conversations I have had with Passion Fruit farmers in Kenya, the returns are good, sustainable and the challenges presented are not quite as bad as many will lead you to believe. Diseases can be managed. You can easily earn like this without many challenges. The plus side of passion fruit farming is, the market is solid, constant and the prices are good. This alone makes it sustainable and worthy to be planted.

If you are reading this article and thinking of getting into Passion Fruit farming, it’s best you try it on a small piece of land before investing all your money on something big. I did my own research, now do yours. Make sure you attend agricultural shows, field days and farming exhibitions. Doing this will give you tips, information and practical know-how.

Passion fruit farming can be profitable, but the crop requires intensive management and a huge amount of capital investment (Especially when it comes to sourcing for wooden poles). Plan wisely.

What do you think? Is Passion Fruit farming sustainable? Please share your comments below.

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Joseph Boit

Farmer | Entrepreneur | Technology Enthusiast

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