Farmers can reduce post harvest losses linked to rotting by growing a new tomato hybrid variety, tylka F1, which lasts for more than 20 days after harvesting.
The extended shelf-life allows for more time to reach far-flung markets as well as selling for more days when demand is low, therefore, reducing incidences of post harvest loses.
A 2015 study by Kenyatta University established that farmers incur post harvest losses of up to 31 per cent because they cannot access far markets on time. More losses result from rotting when the demand is low because of lugged buying.
Syngenta’s agronomist Moureen Namusonge says the hybrid remains strong for more than 21 days after harvesting, allowing for transportation from remote production areas to urban markets.
“Tylka F1 has a strong skin. This characteristic has been achieved through breeding. It enables the fruit to remain firm for a long period. Selling everything that one has produced ensures profitability in agribusiness,” she said.
Most tomato varieties deteriorate after 14 days. Subsequently, farmers and traders are forced to sell the produce at throw away prices to salvage their investment, forfeiting profits.
Low tomato producing areas like Mombasa County depend on upcountry produce, a factor that keeps prices high in this coastal city almost all year round.
Most farmers are narrowing down to greenhouse farming to maximise profits because they can micromanage most of the conditions.
Tylka does well in a greenhouse set-up. It is high yielding too in open fields. A farmer requires 1,000 seedlings for a standard 8m by 15 m greenhouse.
One acre will require about 10,000 seedlings, giving an average of 75 tonnes under proper management practices.
In Nairobi, one kilogramme of tomatoes costs about Sh100.
The seedlings mature in 75 days after transplanting, with production extending to more than four months. The oval fruits weigh between 100 grammes and 130 grammes.
Management practices include timely staking to support the stem in carrying the fruits, pruning, weeding, pests and diseases control, irrigation, among others.
Chemicals for pests and diseases control increase production costs for farmers.
Tomato yellow leaf virus, mosaic virus, green leaf spot, fusarium crown and root rot are some of the diseases the variety is resistant to.
It can also withstand nematode pests, which are highly destructive.