News and knowhow for farmers

Arrowroot prices nearly double in 5 years on surging demand for traditional foods

Arrow roots
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By Lydia Gichuki

Arrowroot prices have almost doubled over the last five years driven by rising demand from consumers seeking out the root for its health and nutrition benefits. At the farm gate, the price of the tuber has increased from Sh40 per kilogram in 2016, to Sh70 per kilogram in 2020. In the market, a kilogram now goes for Sh100, compared to Sh50 to Sh70 several years ago.

As a result of the surge, Francis Famula, a farmer from Kakamega County, said he is expecting to get Sh1m from his five acres of arrowroot in six months’ time, when they mature. It was this level of earnings that saw him venture into arrowroots in an area that predominantly grows sugarcane, with the demand for the tuber having soared and pushed prices up as people have shifted to traditional food such as arrowroots in a bid to curb the spread of lifestyle disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

“I did my calculations and concluded that arrowroots are more profitable than sugarcane, as I will make Sh200,000 from one acre, which holds 5,000 suckers in six months, compared to Sh40,000 from sugarcane in 18 months,” said Famula

Arrowroot has gained popularity in recent years among Kenyans due to its high nutritional value, with the tuber proving rich in energy, fibre, vitamins B6 and C, amino acids, minerals, iron, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, copper and manganese.

The tubers’ health benefits include regulating the heartbeat and blood pressure, boosting immunity, aiding in digestion and clearing excess cholesterol.

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Demand has also grown as producers have ventured into value addition of the tuber to make flour which is used to make porridge and recommended for children and the elderly as it is easily digestible with high nutritional value.

The flour is also used as a thickener in baking and as a stabilising agent in the making of cookies and biscuits.

Famula who was farming watermelons before venturing into arrowroots said he cannot compare the two, as the return from the tubers is so much higher.

“Although watermelon is very pricy in the market, it leaves very little for the farmer, as a lot of money is used to buy pesticides to stop the pests that attacks the plant while in the farm, which are quite expensive, and also the seedlings are expensive. Arrowroots are rarely attacked by pest and diseases and so all the money goes to the farmer’s pocket,” he said.

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He recommends Rwanda’s Dasheen arrowroots for prospective farmers instead of the Eddoe variety, the traditional arrowroots, as they give bigger tubers, takes less time to mature and grow in relatively less swampy areas. Dasheen can be differentiated from the Eddoe as it has bigger leaves.

He encourages more people to venture in this farming as the prices are projected to increase further as the ongoing rains are prohibiting the growth of the tubers, which will result in a shortage.

Famula is selling Dasheen suckers for Sh5 each. His contact is 0724821186

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