In response to an article we published on the great market potential of chilli farming, one of our readers Nicholas Muthee requested for an approximation of the input costs for one acre of crop, which could yield up to 10tonnes of Cayenne pepper that has a market value of Sh1m, if sold to Lagran Group, a fresh food exporter.
Our in-house agronomist Elijah Lemomo took up the task and these were his approximations.
Soil sampling and testing
Muthee’s piece of land is in Murang’a and he confirms that he has an adequate supply of water. To start off, he will need to confirm that his soil’s drainage and PH favours the cultivation of Cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper requires well-drained soil with a neutral pH (6.5-7.5) and a low nitrogen level. Comprehensive soil sampling and testing services from the Soil Cares initiative cost an average of KSh2500.
Soil stabilization and land preparation
Murang’a is traditionally a tea and coffee farming area and soils with a pH range of 3.9 to 5.0, which will need to be raised by the addition of lime. Lime is sold in 10kg bags costing an average of Sh1,200. It takes at least 1.2t to raise the pH of soil by one point.
Assuming that Muthee’s soil has a pH of 4.0, it will take him 3.6t of lime for him to raise the pH to 7.0, at a total cost of KSh432,000.
The lime will be added during the preparation of the land for planting. It is advisable to prepare the land into raised beds that are 50cm apart.
One acre of land will take five workers some three days to properly complete. With each worker being paid KSh678 per day (based on agricultural minimum wage of KSh6,780 as required by state), Muthee will pay a total of KSh10,170 for land preparation.
Nursery preparation and planting
As the land is being prepared, Mr. Muthee will need one other worker to prepare a nursery, at a cost of KSh678 (it will only take one day to get a nursery well prepared).
After preparation, during which time the soil is mixed with manure, the nursery needs to be covered with a clear polythene paper (tarpaulin) for at least three days. This is called soil solarization, a nonchemical method for controlling soilborne pests and disease-causing organisms using high temperatures produced by capturing radiant energy from the sun. One square meter of clear plastic paper costs Sh20 and it will require upto 30 square metres for adequate cover, a total of Sh600.
After three days, the seeds are sown into the nursery, which is also immediately watered. Although it requires 300g of seeds to cover one acre (recommendations by Mea Limited), it is advisable that at least one kilogram be planted to cover for transplantation damages. 250g of seeds by Simlaw seeds costs KSh620 (KSh3,100 for 1kg).
It will take an average of 7 days for the seedlings to sprout. Nursery maintenance will take an average of one hour a day at KSh86 labour charge per hour, totaling KSh602.
After seven days, the seedlings need to be transplanted to the main farm at a spacing of 15cm between plants. It will require 10 people to cover one acre in one day, a total labour charge of KSh6,780.
It takes 70-75 days between transplanting and harvesting, during which time, very little management is required. However, assuming a worker is paid to monitor the crop for one hour a day, a total of KSh6,525 will be spent. In addition to watering daily, at flowering, Muthee is advised to use Boomflower, a flowering stimulant that is sold under different brand names. A litre of Boomflower, by Osho Chemicals Limited, which is enough to cover one acre costs KSh2,000. Mr. Muthee will also need to pay two labourers KSh1,356 to spray the farm.
When the pepper is ready for harvest, it will require upto 10 labourers to get it from the farm in three days, a total of KSh20,340 in labour costs.
Summary of costs
- Soil sampling and testing-KSh2,500
- Clear plastic-Sh600
- Land preparation-KSh10,170
- Nursery preparation-KSh678
- Nursery maintenance-KSh602
- Farm monitoring-KSh6,525
- Boomflower spraying-KSh1,356