Planting plan and market contact helping farmer in selling produce

Timing of planting season and establishing market networks are helping a Kiambu County farmer in selling his produce with little competition to earn profits.

Patrick Njenga, who has for more than 10 years specialised in short season vegetable and Irish potato production, said going against other farmer’s growing calendar and keeping market contacts have helped his agribusiness to remain profitable.

 “I started with snow-peas. A friend, who was in the same agribusiness showed me a well paying market. The next season I grew the same crop, it was easy to sell. A diversification to Irish potatoes and other vegetables was a challenge at first, but I quickly engaged mass buyers,” he said.

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Njenga, who has started harvesting Irish potatoes from his three quarter acre, said piece meal selling at local markets leads to losses. It is difficult to sell at standard prices.

For instance, an 18kg bucket of Irish potatoes costing Sh600 in the markets can hardly fetch Sh500.

“I prefer the wholesale buyers because they pay a standard price of about Sh2,500 for every sack of 110kg. Selling the same in small quantities gives Sh1,600 or at most Sh2,000,” he said. 

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The farmer rotates the potatoes with cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Lack of market and production when supply is high leads to losses to farmers, who have not done sufficient market research. He knows, in person, who can buy what, and when can it fetch best prices.

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As a marketing strategy, Ngenga marks out a planting plan of these short season crops at the beginning of every year. His calendar works in reverse to that of other farmers. He plants thrice per year.

If in January more farmers grow carrots for April harvest, he goes for cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower. The July season will have another crop, for example Irish potatoes for August harvest when prices are high due to low supply.

The potatoes he is harvesting were planted in June.

The cold climate of Kimende, which is as a result of the nearby Aberdare Ranges, is one of the main challenges he struggles with in his production.

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“Application of anti-frost chemicals at an early stage wades off scorching losses. I apply the chemical ahead of frost falling. Even in severe falls, the impact is little,” he said.

His quarter an acre cabbage is due for harvest in September, 2016.

PHOTO: Patrick Njenga, filling a bucket with Irish potatoes at his farm in Kimende, Kiambu County on August 18, 2016. H has established a strong network with farm produce wholesalers, who help in disposing his harvest all year  all year round. PHOTO BY LABAN ROBERT.