Why drop in mango yields has not led to boom for farmers

A worker sprays a mango tree at a farm in Karurumo, Embu East. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]
The county has registered a steep drop in mango production this season.

However, farmers have not benefited since prices have stagnated at Sh3 per piece.

Farmers in Karurumo region said they were disappointed that despite the low mango harvest, traders continued to buy the fruit at the same low prices they offered whenever there was a glut.

Large trucks from different parts of East Africa crisscross the county in search of mangoes between December and April every year, but this season such buyers are few.

According to John Kimani, a crop scientist, unusual heavy rains and cold spells that continued to the end of last September caused mango, avocado and macadamia trees to start shedding off flowers in August, leaving them almost bare.

Farmers in Embu have estimated that they will harvest a quarter of what they have been registering in previous years.

“We expected to earn more from this season’s harvest but the prices have not risen,” said Njega Njue, a mango farmer in Embu East.

Alloys Mbogo, the chair of Karurumo Horticultural Self Help Group, which is involved in adding value to the mangoes, said the mango prices had failed to rise despite a drop in supply because they were of low quality.

Mr Mbogo said the region’s fruits were vulnerable to infestation by fruit flies, weevils and other pests.

He said that made buyers reluctant to pay more for the mangoes for fear of finding them rotten.

“We end up selling a mango at Sh3 or Sh5, whereas it could fetch as much as Sh10 or Sh15.

A census done eight years ago established that the county had 400,000 mango trees, which could have increased exponentially over the years.

Mbogo told The Standard the quality issue was being addressed through partnership with organisations that sensitised farmers on pest and diseases control methods.

Already, a group of farmers, through the Karurumo self-help group, is a beneficiary of a programme by Techno Serve, Rockefeller Foundation and University of Nairobi, which is piloting value addition and pest control at an aggregation and processing centre in Karurumo.

The centre is also doing aggregation where a buyer collects ripe mangoes and stores them in coolers at the centre for a few days as they gather adequate volumes for transportation.

The cooler has a capacity of 10,000kg but had stored 1,000kg only when The Standard visited.

The centre also has modern facilities to add value to mangoes meant for juice or crisps.

Embu Governor Martin Wambora said the facility would become operational next month after a transformer is installed.

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Mango yieldsEmbu CountyMango farmers