Demand for passion fruit opens new frontier for coffee farmer

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Nyangaresi Nyamira turns passion fruit bushes at James Kiriago's farm at Magwagwa, Nyamira County on August 14, 2016. Kiriago is making more money from the passion fruits unlike the coffee cash crop. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.

As other farmers make losses to mismanagement and factory bean robbers in the coffee sector, one agripreneur has shunned the crop for passion fruits, which are increasingly becoming on demand in the juice processing industry.

James Kiriago grew one passion fruit seedling outside his home in Magwagwa for domestic consumption. It in three months, it yielded more than 500 fruits, which he was forced to sell to given that his family is small.

Traders collecting fruits for sale in Kisumu came to buy from him; he had ‘too little’ to offer them.

In 2015, he planted 100 purple passion fruit seedlings, which have turned part of his a quarter acre farm into a bush.

“The harvest is gradual. But after a full flowering, which happens in about two months, I harvest two to three 50kg bags at an interval of two weeks. The Kisumu traders look for me; I never look for them. It is easy business that I do unlike coffee, which had turned unpredictable even after depositing my beans to the factory,” Kiriago said.

After selling each of the fruits at Sh4, a one 50kg bag earns him between Sh5,500 and Sh6,000. The variation is caused by size disparity.

Coca-Cola is one of the international beavarge company contracting farmers to supply passion fruit. Other companies are importing concentrates from South Africa and other regions to meet their demand. 

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Passion fruit are highly susceptible to fusarium wilt attack.

But for Kiriago, fruit flies and leaf miners are the main challenges, but he keeps their effect low with weekly pesticide strays.

Just like other parts of Kenya where coffee is grown, robbers regularly break into factories and steal thousands of kilogrammes of the beans, leading to losses of millions of shillings.

Magwagwa coffee factory is not an exception. Although the Nyimira County farmer has a few coffee bushes, the crop is no longer his focus.