Onyancha and Sang’anyi's one acre tomato farm in Nyamira North Sub-county. The two farmers are expecting to start harvesting their tomatoes from mid-March this year.
Two Kisii farmers are anticipating to earn more than Sh750, 000 a month from their one acre farm after planting tomatoes in December 26th last year to January 2nd this year, using drip irrigation system targeting the off-season mid-March market when the produce prices are high in the country.
Over the past three decades, a large trade in 'off-season' horticultural crops that encompasses dozens of tomatoes has developed in Kenya according to a study by Horticultural Cooperative Union Limited Kenya (HCU) whose mandate is to enable smallholder farmers to secure better marketing for their produce.
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The HCU study indicates that on average, the total production cost of tomatoes by a small scale farmer on an acre farm is about Sh250, 000. This include the cost of irrigation materials (preferably, drip kits) among other farm implements. Medium producers spend Sh500, 000 while large scale farmers use Sh800, 000 and more on production per acre.
“This is a new concept on the increase across different levels of farmers to meet increasing demand with more profit,” said Timothy Munywoki, an agronomist from Amiran Kenya.
“Tomato is a relatively warm season crop, with day and night temperature requirement in the range of 26-30 degree Celsius and 14-19 degree Celsius respectively. It requires low-to-medium rainfall and some sunshine at fruit-ripening stage.”
Generally most areas in the country experience dry season from mid-June to October and from late-December to mid-March.
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Julius Onyancha and Reuben Sang’anyi are examples of farmers who are taking advantage of the dry season experienced in the country currently to produce tomatoes that will be in demand in the off-season which will lead to an increase in price hence profits.
In 2016, the two farmers conducted a test on tomato farming during dry season on a quarter acre spending Sh65, 000 on irrigation, compost manure, labour and other expenses and earned Sh150, 000..
“This encouraged us to increase the size of our farm to one acre from. We harvested 55 crates and sold about 50 at Sh4000 each as the demand of tomatoes was high,” said Onyancha.
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This year, the tomatoes will be harvested from 16th March. The average tomato prices is always high; bigger sizes that are normally sold at five shillings rise to Sh10 each while the best quality is retailing at four fruits for Sh50 according to National Farmers Informational Service (NAFIS).
Additionally, the dry season is good for tomato farming because there are less prone to attack from diseases and harvesting starts when there is high demand of tomatoes in the market making the prices favourable for the farmer.
“During wet seasons when there is much rainfall, tomatoes are prone to diseases like leaf curl, fruit cracks and powdery mildew caused by much cold and high humidity,” said Onyancha, who has been a tomato farmer for the past 15 years.
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Separately, the two farmers own greenhouses. Sang’anyi owns one measuring 10mx60m with about 1400 tomatoes currently while Onyancha has four although only two measuring 10mx40m and 8mx25m; a total of 1800 tomatoes at the moment.
“We plant Rambo variety of tomatoes which are resistance to bacterial wilt, takes about 75 days to mature and is harvested for four weeks upon maturity,” said Onyancha.
Onyancha and Sang’anyi are expecting to make Sh750, 000 collectively while on individual basis they will make Sh408, 000 and Sh376, 000 respectively totaling to Sh783, 000 net profit.