Impulse buy yields Sh1.2 million for farmer
By By LILLIAN KIARIE | December 24th 2013
By LILLIAN KIARIE
KENYA: Three years ago, Mr Charles Mundia impulsively purchased 13 yellow passion fruit plants at Sh60 each while on a trip to the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
Six months down the line, he harvested about 200 kilos of the fruit, selling each kilo at Sh80.
“I planted the vines on a nine feet by nine feet parcel on my land to start with. Today, I harvest more than 12,000 kilos of yellow passion fruit and have a hotel in Kamwangi where I sell the juice,” said Mr Mundia.
Passion fruit is among the top five export fruits in Kenya, which means there is a ready market.
They occupy little space and intertwine, allowing you to put the rest of your land to other use.
It does best in environments that get a lot of sunlight.
Ms Margaret Gitau, a member of the Youth Agro-Environment Initiative, said one acre of land can accommodate more than 670 vines, with each capable of yielding a minimum 30 kilos of fruit.
A kilo fetches about Sh60 in the market, which means a farmer can earn at least Sh1.2 million from an acre a year.
Its vine is propagated through seeds, cuttings and grafting.
“A seedling for a vine costs Sh35 and is ready for transplanting once the vine attains a height of 15 to 30 cm, which takes three to four months,” Ms Gitau said.
A vine can produce up to 50 kilos of fruit a year if it gets the right nutrients during transplanting.
The top soil the vines grow in must be thoroughly mixed with a wheelbarrow or two of well-rotted manure and 125 grammes of a compound fertiliser.
Proper application and supply of manure and fertiliser enables passion fruit grow resistant to most pests and diseases.
The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) recently introduced a yellow passion fruit that is high yielding and tolerant to diseases and bugs.
“It took 10 years of research, cross breeding and upgrading with local species. From planting, it takes nine to 10 months to get the first fruits, close to the same time as purple passion fruits,” said Kari Project Manager Koori Njuguna.
Mr Njuguna said that it yields 30 to 40 tons per hectare per harvest, compared to 15 for the purple variety.
Yellow passion farmers realise higher profits due to lower growing costs, too.
“The yellow passion is expected to do better in coffee-growing regions than in cold tea-growing areas, where the purple passion remains a better choice,” Njuguna said.
He added that it has a productive lifespan of five years compared to three years for the purple fruit, and requires a minimum initial investment for a quarter of an acre of Sh20,000 to Sh35,000 if a drip irrigation kit is included.
Establish an orchard
You will need about 150 to 200 seedlings to establish a yellow passion orchard.
The fruit can either be established from seeds or seedlings, but starting with seeds poses a disadvantage as it takes time for the seeds to reach the transplanting stage.
Seedlings are better for some investors as you can buy them grafted.
You can also decide to graft purple passion fruit on top of
yellow variety. One grafted seedling goes for Sh40.
You will require about two rolls of barbed wire, nails and 120 poles to suspend the vines.
Mundia warned that the crop requires regular weeding for vigorous growth.
“Weed carefully since injury may prompt bacteria and fungi to get entry to the plant through the wounds. Once the vine has been transplanted, some laterals (branches that grow from the main vine) may fail to grow, but you can force them to by pinching the shoot tip,” he added.
Maintain inter-row spacing of the vines at two metres, with intra-row spacing at three metres.
The harvesting process is simple as the fruit drops to the ground when fully mature and should be collected every second day.
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