Grape Growers Association of Kenya has introduced in the country high yielding South African table and wine grape cuttings, seedlings and rootstocks accessible to farmers from all parts of the country to enable them increase their production and income.
According to the company’s chairman, Moses Gitile , the South African grape varieties are preferred given the country is the leading in the crop production in Africa and the varieties have been tested in the country by the company.
“We have two farms, one at Athi River and another at Kamulu, about 15km off the Eastern Bypass in Nairobi which are six acres in total. The two farms are partly under seedlings and grapes production for over two years now,” said Gitile.
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The company register willing growers with at Sh1,000 at train them on grapes farming at Sh5,000 each before selling them seeds.
“We also teach you how to plant and take care of the plants as well as provide ready Market once you harvest,” said the chairperson.
“We have export market opportunities and soon we are launching our own wine plant to provide ready market for farmers. However, lack of enough producers have been delaying our projects hence GGAK has now rolled out a vigorous programme to recruit farmers to start growing.”
The company has partnered with Henken which will see the winemaker buy grapes from its members, on a contractual basis, at Sh60 a kilo.
“In a few years, when our farmers begin harvesting, we shall commence wine making. We want to make sure that we have a steady supply of grapes so that the plant never grounds for lack of raw material.”
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Currently in Kenya you can only spot an established vineyard in Meru and Naivasha.
A grapevine can start bearing fruits a year after planting
GGAK’s registered farmers enjoy discounts when buying the cuttings, seedlings or rootstocks from the company.
A cutting goes for Sh250 for registered members while unregistered members buy at Sh350-400 per cutting. Seedlings retain at Sh150 each for registered members whereas unregistered buyers are charged Sh250 each.
Rootstocks are the most expensive grapes planting materials according to the agronomist. This is because they have already grown with developed roots they have almost 100 per cent growth chances.
A rootstock for registered members goes at Sh600-800 while unregistered members part with Sh900-1,000 per rootstock.
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Table grape vines must be vigorous to ensure high yields and quality; the better the soil, the healthier the vines and the greater the chance for high tonnage and quality, according to a 2012 Grapes Production Guidelines by South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Depending on how soon the vine develops strong stems the first harvest can be realised between two and three years from the day of planting. “Afterwards a farmer can harvest every six months,” said Gitile.
“Grapevine is a unique plant. Once established, it continues to bear fruit for 200 years. Also, once established, grapevines require minimal management: only seasonal pruning, irrigation and fertiliser application are key.”
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Grape Growers Association of Kenya has been working with Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) to produce high quality disease and drought resistance planting materials.
The company is completing a state-of-the -art winery in Ruiru town, Kiambu County, which should be operational in two years.