Farmer turns to custard apple over coffee farming

Custard Apple tree on a farm in Kamahuha. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard] 

A farmer growing custard apples in Kamahuha village in Murang’a is making better returns after he shifted from coffee farming. In 2003, Fredrick Kinyanjui 57, retired from driving long-distance trucks and opted to venture into coffee farming and planted 333 seedlings. At first, he enjoyed better returns as he produced 500,000 kilograms of cherries, unfortunately, this didn't last long as fluctuating market prices frustrated his venture and that is when he decided to shift to custard apples.

Kinyanjui was inspired to venture into coffee farming after he had witnessed farmers in Uganda changing their lives through the crop.

“As a truck driver I transported coffee from Uganda through Kenya for export markets and admired the venture and got into the sector once I retired,” said Kinyanjui.

He said the challenges he experienced included low returns, and at times the cooperative society failed to effect payment to members citing debts incurred to facilitate processing.

“I got frustrated and uprooted the coffee trees as I could not stomach the frustrations,” said Kinyanjui.

He replaced the coffee trees with 40 custard apple trees with each producing about 800 kilogrammes per season.

“My father would tell me that it was the custard apple that paid for my education and catered for the family needs,” he said.

On average, he harvests about 20 tons of custard apples per season with a kilogram selling at Sh60.

“This year, we are expecting the price to fetch above Sh80 per kilogram though the production is lower because of the drought we experienced last year”, he explained.

Last year, a Saudi Arabia buyer visited the farms and signed a contract to purchase 1 tonne per week. Murang’a South Agriculture Officer John Waihenya said Kinyanjui fruits fetch better prices in the market as he practices organic farming.

“A tree can produce 800 kilograms per season with the harvesting season being between May and September” said Waihenya.

He added that with effective crop husbandry, the tree takes about three years to mature.

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