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    Kenyan farmers can fill the international pineapple deficit, which has resulted in a sharp price surge in consumer countries like France.

    The shortage has been attributed to a decline in production of the crop in 2015 from source countries such as Kenya, Philippines and Thailand.

    Pineapple farming in Thailand, one of the world's leading supplier of the crop, has reportedly been abandoned for rubber and rice, which are more lucrative.

    At the same time, Del Monte, which is Kenya's leading exporter of the fruit recorded low harvests last year, a situated linked to land-lease wrangles between the company and the Murang'a and Kiambu County Governments .

    Further, the low productivity by Del Monte, and other global pineapple sources, was also linked to harsh weather, resulting from climate change.

    Deliveries to major retail outlets in France are running dry, even as concentrate pineapples remained scarce in major supermarkets.

    According to International Trade Centre, a publication on global business trends, suppliers in France have put up with high prices to avail the product to their customers.

    Concentrate

    For instance, Système U and Métro are parting with €0.95 per litre (Sh106/ litre) rather than the usual €0.55 per litre (Sh62/litre).

    Pineapple is mainly sold in form of fresh juice or concentrates. Pineapple concentrates have least liquid content for longer shelf life.

    The European country's main pineapple distributor, La Laiterie Saint-Denis de l'Hôtel Manadig Director Emmanuel Vasseneixsaid the pineapple juice concentrates shortage may persist until June-July.

    Del Monte, Florida Products and Dole have slowed processing the fruit into concentrates and other products to meet the demand for fresh juice, Vasseneix said.

    Florida Products processes food ingredients from fruits. Dole is the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Both Dole and Florida Products are US companies.

    Prices 

    Last year concentrate prices doubled from $1,500 per tonne (Sh153, 495 per tonne) to $3,800per tonne (Sh388, 852 per tonne) in the international market.

    Pure juice rose from $850 per tonne (KSh86, 980 per tonne) to $1,500 per tonne (Sh153, 494 per tonne).

    The Thai Pineapple Industry Association says the country exported about 1.437 million tonnes of pineapples in 2015. The country on average produces around 2 million tonnes of fruit per year.

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    Farmers have urged the government to increase the import duty on wheat as a way of enabling Kenyan producers to effectively market their products locally.

    The chairman of the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) Farnie Kruger lamented the low returns from the crop are dissuading farmers from cultivating it.

    Currently, a 90Kg bag of wheat fetches KSh2500 and Kruger hopes that it can be increased to KSh3200.

    “It is easier for foreign farmers to get their products into our market because of the subsidies they enjoy from their governments and we hope that our government will help tame these market-distorting forces,” said Kruger.

    CGAs 30,000 members want  the government to revise the import duty to 35 per cent.

    READ ALSO: Narok Secures Sh28b Investment For Agriculture

    Mr Kruger further noted that despite wheat being the second-most important cereal crop after maize in Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture was not doing enough to support its production.

    He said that farmers in Narok and Uasin Gishu counties, which produce more than 70 per cent of the country’s wheat, are currently unable to sell 350,000 bags produced last season. Kenya produced 420,000 metric tonnes of wheat in 2015.

     

    A study by FAO showed that Kenya has been meeting its wheat demand by importing from countries such as Russia and Ukraine.

    “Kenya farmers mostly produce relatively low quality, soft wheat varieties and higher quality, hard wheat varieties in a 75:25 ratio. Millers blend imported hard wheat varieties with soft wheat in a 40:60 ratio to produce a flour quality that meets Kenyan market demands,” read the report.

    The research noted that a “quality adjustment needs to be made in comparing Kenya wheat prices with those of imported wheat.”

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    Small-scale farmers must first identify the market for goods they intend produce to avoid surplus and competition that lead to low prices.

    Speaking Wednesday night during an agribusiness innovation forum dubbed What Next AgTech at Strathmore University, a Western Kenya renowned large-scale sugarcane and maize farmer Charles Odida said producing for an imaginary consumer chocks the market, which cannot seep the surplus.

    Farmers sell produce at low prices when there is surplus harvest to even recover costs incurred, moreso for perishables. Even for non-perishables like grains, they still sell at dismal prices for fear of post harvest losses resulting from poor storage.

    “Before one starts producing maize, they must know who their target market is. It will be helpful to know if indeed a given institutions will need one's product after harvesting. This will also guide how much one needs to produce to meet the demand of the clients,” he said.

    For instance maize, which he has produced in small-scale and large scale, he first contacted institutions and asked them how much they would need in a year.

    READ ALSO: Kenyan Mangoes Have a Ripe Market in Japan

    Based on this information, he had had a target to meet, therefore, adhering to the correct ration of inputs was the only option to deliver a yield that would satisfy all his clients.

    “When I was still at primary school, I identified that teachers needed vegetables. I had to work out on how to constantly supply them with vegetables. I curved out my market, which never faced competition or loss due to lack of market,” Odida said.

    The farmer added that he has succeed in agribusiness on his more than 100 acres because of focusing on quantity of the yield per acre, not the size of his maize and sugar fields.

    He said technology should only complement existing knowledge such as proper timing, best crop husbandry in the field and proper post harvest practices to maximise profits.

    Odida played down claims that many agribusiness innovations are shelved for lack of implementation funds.

    “Agriculture is the only enterprise that allows for farmers to start with the least capital. Even with a big piece of land, you can start small on a portion, which can swallow inputs that you afford. After the first harvest, you can increase the acreage following good return from the past season,” he said.

    Umati Capital's Munyutu Waigi cautioned farmers against cooperatives, which he said do not add value other than eating into their earnings.

    At the same time, he said, bank loans do not add value to production and the access to funds is too slow.

    Kenya Biologics Chief Executive Officer said high yields can be realised by more specialisation on a given product.

    The event, which was sponsored by Nest Nairobi, was attended by 'new' agriculture stakeholders, who are keen at innovation as the driver to the next big thing in the globe.

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