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KALRO partners with buyer Coca Cola to commercialise new passion fruit

passion fruit farming

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) is commercialising three new high-quality passion fruit varieties in a partnership with buyers Coca Cola and other stakeholders, to better position farmers to take advantage of the rising demand for the fruit and its juice.

The three varieties known as Kenya passion fruit number 4 (KPF 4), 11 (KPF 11) and 12 (KPF 12) were developed over 20 years of research to give farmers better returns for the fruit.

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The new varieties are drought tolerant and more suited to the fresh market and processing, and despite having similar physical characteristics to the types grown in the coastal region, they are superior in quality, said Joseph Njuguna a fruit expert at KALRO-Thika.

“The new varieties are sweet, unlike those grown in the coast region (Brazil, C5),” he said, adding that they are bigger in size, juicier and more tolerant to soil and foliar diseases.

Njuguna said KALRO has begun to commercialise the and has identified community nurseries in warm areas to transfer the seed and seedling propagation to farmers.

The multi-stakeholder project promoting the commercialisation of the passion fruit seedlings in Kenya is now at the bulking stage, he said, which is the phase in which KALRO ascertains that there are enough certified seedlings propagated prior to their transfer to farmers.

 In this regard, the national seed merchant has propagated 30,000 seedlings for distribution in Eastern, Central and parts of Rift Valley Provinces.

A vegetatively propagated seedling of the new varieties costs Sh30 (35 US cents), but farmers could also purchase a gram of seeds at Sh60 (70 US cents). 

Passion fruit delivers a quick financial return for both the domestic and export markets because it takes only one year for the crop to mature.

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KALRO estimates that a farmer can harvest as much as three tonnes of the fruit from a hectare of land with the new varieties, with the farm-gate price of a kilogramme of the fresh fruit running at Sh20 (24 US cents), or Sh20,000 per tonne.

For farmers adopting the new seedlings, soft drink giant Coca Cola has offered to buy the passion fruit concentrates from intermediaries to use in making quality juices. This, according to Mr. Henry Kinyua of Technoserve, is good news to thousands of farmers pegging their hopes on the product at a time when the country’s production capacity is below the market demand.

Two more companies – Equity Bank and Sunny Processors – are collaborating with KALRO in the projet, with Equity Bank providing loans to passion fruit farmers, and Sunny Processors extracting concentrates for sale to Coca Cola.

Data from KALRO shows that until now two varieties have dominated in Kenya.


The purple passion, the most common, does well in mid-attitude regions and has quick market returns, but is susceptible to Fusarium wilt, brown spot and passion fruit woodiness virus complex. Whereas the yellow passion fruit does well in hot regions and is highly tolerant to soil-borne diseases. The yellow passion fruit‘s strength is in its acidity content and strong flavour.

“The KALRO fruit breeding programme initiated activities to improve the yellow passion fruit including using the yellow type as the rootstalk,” said Njuguna.

The passion fruit breeding programme is also being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Today, the production of passion fruit is one of the leading commercial enterprises in the North Rift where the area under passion fruit is increasing rapidly. However, farmers in these regions face major challenges with quality planting materials, agronomic and pest and disease management, and are also often growing the fruit with sub-optimal fertilizers.

Horticulture Research Institute can be reached on Thika or +254 722206986/722206988/+254 733-333-223

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