News and knowhow for farmers

Kenyan growers cash in on ideal weather for world’s fastest-growing superfruit

Since its classification as a superfruit in the early 2000s the global blueberry market is one of the few horticulture sectors that has seen consistently rising demand and prices.

The volume of global imported blueberries has grown from 66, 000 tons in 2002 to 779, 000 tons in 2021– a 14 per cent annual growth rate. The value of these imports has grown at an even faster 21 per cent yearly rate.

This has driven farmers in Kenya -a country previously thought of as not being ideal for the fruit’s cultivation– to embrace tropical blueberries that can be grown in warm climates to supply ever growing international and local markets.

Related News: The superfruit earning its pioneer farmer Sh2,000 a kilogram

Related News: Kakuzi banks on macadamia & blueberries as avocado business falters

According to Kenya’s first blueberry exporter, Kakuzi PLC, increasingly health-conscious consumers both locally and internationally provide a great runway for the takeoff of Kenya’s blueberry market. 

“Blueberries are a key crop that are poised to build Kenya’s export earnings and international reputation as a key agricultural producer of superfoods,” said the firm’s Managing Director Chris Flowers.

Growing Blueberries

Open-field cultivations of tropical blueberries can be done over a wide temperature range of 10°C to 28°C. They require consistent moisture, but should not be overwatered. At least three liters of water are required per plant daily.

Based in Limuru, Anthony Kamiti is one of Kenya’s few local blueberry suppliers as the country largely relies on imports from South Africa and Egypt. Each kilogram of the berry earns him Sh2,000.

He credits his success in cultivating the sensitive high-value fruit to growing it in containers. This helps him regulate their pH levels, moisture, and compost content. 

If planted directly into the ground, a  40cm x 40cm x 40cm hole should be dug where planting material can be mixed in. This mixture can contain mulch from pine bark or acid compost mixed in with peat moss. Sandy soil with a pH of less than 6.0 can also be used to complete the mixture.

“Farmyard manure should be avoided as it can increase the alkalinity of the soil. Blueberries are famously acid-loving crops,” said Kamiti

Related News: Kakuzi to open farmers market, ramps up investment in blueberries 

Unlike most crops, blueberries demand to be grown in highly acidic soils with a pH range of 4.5 and 5.5. Sulphur can be used to lower soil pH, but this can take 6 -12 months depending on climate and soil condition.

He informs that growing the berries is not labour-intensive as they are low-maintenance plants compared to most crops. They are also not easily affected by diseases or pests with only the cold weather majorly impacting their production.

The fruit’s roots are very shallow which means they require properly drained fine soils to thrive. A lack of fibrous roots makes a blueberry plant easily choked out by weeds.

They should ideally be grown under full sun but they can tolerate partial shade.

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