One small-scale farmer in Kiambu County is tapping tens of thousands of shillings flowing from the shifting demand for strawberry flavoured foods to the actual fruits.
George Kinuthia started by propagating strawberry seedlings for customers. But with time, he noticed the gap in the market as supermarkets, hotels and individuals started showing appetite for these fruit.
Supermarkets are selling the product packaged fresh while high-end hotels serve it in salads.
“Individuals and supermarkets were asking for these fruits. I only had seedlings to supply to growers. I had no reason to reject cash from direct market. That is how I delved into double trading,” he said.
With drip irrigation, Kinuthia continuously supplies the fruit, which he says is all season loving.
“I have never run short of market. With constant supply of water and other inputs, every bush yields between one and three kilogrammes in a month or so,” he says.
On average, a kilogramme of strawberry, he says, fetches Sh150; but when demand is high and supply from other competitors is low, he increases the cost.
With about 1,000 bushes on less than one acre, Kinuthia gets a gross income of at least Sh225,000 in three months.
Strawberries start yielding after three months. Productivity of the bushes increase as they mature.
The fruit does well both in open fields and greenhouses, with the latter being most preferred.
A greenhouse is best best because frost and hailstones affect the leaves, which are important in production of the fruit. maturing fruits can also be washed down.
Birds are the main pests of strawberries.
“In an open field, a farmer will be required to buy nets that cover the entire field. This would wade away the birds,” he said.
Juice and jam
Besides the demand for the fresh fruits, Kinuthia says, other farmers are jumping into jam and juice churning.
Strawberry is a preferred flavour that most producers such as yoghurt and chewing gum producers a are riding on to make more sales.
Apart from propagation of strawberries, Kinuthia also raises seedlings of hybrid yellow capsicum and tomatoes.
He sells the strawberry seedlings at Sh30.