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It is raining mangoes! But where is the money?

MONEY & MARKET
By Jennifer Anyango | Jan 21st 2022 | 3 min read
By Jennifer Anyango | January 21st 2022
MONEY & MARKET

Faith Mumo sorting mangoes at a farm in Iviani, Kathonzweni, Makueni County. [Stephen Nzioka, Standard]

Mango is a stony tropical fruit of the anacardiaceae family. 

In Kenya, mango farming is done mostly in Eastern and the Coast. Ripe fruits are consumed raw as dessert, or processed into fruit juices and other sweet products.

Paul Kioko is a mango farmer from Machakos county and offers a few insights on its propagation.

Ecological requirements

Mangoes do bests in temperatures of 15 to 30 degrees celcius. Irrigation is needed in case of insufficient rainfall. Soils that are fertile and well-drained with optimum Ph of 5.5 to 7.5. According to ehow clay, sand and loam are all good soils for growing mangos, as long as the trees are planted deeply and the roots aren’t over-watered.

“Note that rainfall during flowering season reduces fruit setting. After the plant is well established, it can tolerate drought especially when its tap root reaches the water table,” says Kioko.

Porter transporting mangoes at Daraja Mbili Market in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Varieties

The common varieties include Apple, Ngowe, Kent, Keitt, Tommy Artkins, Van Dyke, Haden, Sensation, Boribo and Sabine. The characteristics that differentiate varieties are fruit shape, size, aroma, sweetness, colour, fibre content, taste, seed size and resistance to diseases. Local mango varieties in Kenya include Dodo, Boribo and Batawi.

Propagation and planting

In mango farming, propagation is primarily done by seeds, especially for the indigenous varieties. Exotic varieties are obtained by successfully grafting a scion on the indigenous rootstock. This leads to development of the various dwarf trees. During planting, spacing may vary from five metres by five metres to eight metres by eight metres depending on the growth habit of the variety.

“Crops like vegetables, legumes, short length and dwarf fruit crops can be planted together with the mangoes,” he says.

Pruning

Pruning is one of the most important management practices in mango farming. It involves removal of dry, diseased and week beaches, as well as excess foliage. An important aspect in management of pests and diseases, it is done yearly after the fruiting season and it opens up the trees for aeration and penetration of sun rays.

Pests and diseases

Mangoes have many devastating pests and diseases, which can result in total yield loss. Major pests include the fruit fly, seed weevil and mealy bugs. Diseases like anthracnose and powdery mildew are common in almost all mango growing areas. According to Biovision, frequent applications of neem can keep fruit fly attack to a minimum. Fruit fly traps also help.

Gideon Wambua, 62, harvesting mangoes at his farm in Kalamba, Makueni County. [Courtesy]

Harvesting

Mango yields depend on the variability and climatic conditions in a particular region. Grafted mango trees begin bearing from the second year onward. However, phanerogam trees might take five to eight years.

“At the beginning of bearing at the age of two to three years the yield is also as low as 10 to 20 fruits (two to three kg) per tree, rising to 50 to 75 fruits (10 to15 kg) within the succeeding years, and to 500 fruits (100 kg) in its tenth year,” says Kioko.

Market

Mango is highly seasonal and harvest is only expected at certain times of the year depending on the local conditions. During this time, most areas are harvesting and so the local markets are flooded and offer low prices. To avoid that trap, farmers are encouraged to embrace value addition and explore export market.

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