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    By George Munene

    The price of bread is up Sh10 while that of a two-kilogram bag of wheat has risen by 25% from last year, hitting the Sh200 mark for the first time since 2018. 

    This provides an opportunity for farmers who grow wheat alternatives such as tubers to get their crops on more Kenyan tables.

    Francis Faluma farms some 10 acres of arrowroots in Matungu, Kakamega County. While business is good, he forecasts heady times for his business.

    “If wheat prices continue soaring, staples such as sweet potatoes, arrowroots, cassavas, and yams will come in handy for many Kenyan families,” he predicted.

    The price of corn in the country has risen 47 per cent in the past year, while that of wheat is up 58 per cent. Kenya imports over 70 per cent of its wheat leaving it at the mercy of a global buyers market where prices are up 30-40 per cent for the year.

    Related News: Maize production to stagnate as fertiliser prices rise & farmers find lucrative alternatives —USDA report

    Related News: Kenya running out of maize & wheat stocks

    Meanwhile, the price of arrowroots has held at Sh6,000 for a 90-100 kilogram bag for the better part of the year. 

    “Growing arrowroots also has the advantage of not requiring application of synthetic fertilisers,” he said. 

    The Russia-Ukraine conflict coupled with other external forces has spiked the cost of a 50-kilogram bag of fertiliser by 140 per cent to Sh6,000.

    He cultivates his entire crop sorely on manure and organic foliar. As well as being healthy for consumers it also reduces production costs.

    “Even with improved demand, the underlying production costs have remained the same meaning there isn't much of a need to raise prices and inconvenience consumers,” he said. 

    According to Kenya’s United Grain Miller’s Association, the country’s silos are almost out of maize while those of wheat can only last through September. 

    This week the government took the drastic step of granting cereal traders a waiver to import 540,000 metric tonnes of duty-free maize.

    Related News: Russia's invasion of Ukraine to push fertiliser & food prices even higher

    With the current high international prices, wheat manufacturers want the government to waive a similar 10 per cent levy on imported wheat under the duty remission scheme to arrest the current price surge of the grain in Kenya.

    Root and tuber crops are important staple energy sources, second only to cereals in tropical regions of the world.

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    kakuzi blueberry

    By George Munene

    Kakuzi PLC has announced plans to diversify into the production of superfoods such as Macadamia and Blueberries as its avocado business falters.

    While it's volume of Hass avocado sold decreased by 17.5%, its macadamia sales increased to 513 tons from 320 tons the previous year.

    The publicly-traded company plans on establishing an additional 100 ha of macadamias by 2026 from land previously under pineapple production. 

    “The variety of cultivars planted will also give us a good spread of supply into our key and emerging markets,” said Kakuzi chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a.

    Speaking at the 94th Kakuzi PLC Annual General Meeting (AGM), he pointed out that the firm was looking to diversify into a variety of agricultural produce to insulate it’s dependence on traditional produce such as avocado and tea.

    Last month avocado farmers contracted to Kakuzi earned Sh31.4 million, a 46 per cent, fall from Sh57.9 million earned the year before.

    Increased global supply and reduced demand exacerbated by the closure of eateries caused by Covid-19 led to plummeting avocado prices.

    The publicly-traded company plans on establishing an additional 100 ha of macadamias by 2026 from land previously under pineapple production. 

    “The variety of cultivars planted will also give us a good spread of supply into our key and emerging markets,” Ng’ang’a explained

    95% of its blueberry crop was consumed in the domestic and regional markets.

    Ng’ang’a assured the firm’s shareholders that strategic plans had been activated to enhance shareholder returns by diversifying the variety of produce delivered to domestic and international markets.

    Related News: Kakuzi given green light to export avocado to China

    Related News: Nakuru farmers get avocado, macadamia markets & cheap loans from new program

    “Diversification had avoided potentially poor shareholder returns as more positive income was realized from crops such as macadamia as well as forestry products. In the past, we derived our income from coffee and tea sales and then moved to avocados in the 1990’s.  We are looking for further contributions coming from blueberry, livestock, and value addition opportunities coming in time,” Nganga said.

    The firm has had a keen eye on value addition opportunities across its product portfolio. It recently launched a macadamia retail pack and is exploring avocado oil and pulp as well as enhancing the value of its timber products.


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    By George Munene

    The Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) has reviewed the minimum avocado dry matter percentage (DM%) post-harvest to 24 per cent for Hass and Fuerte avocadoes meant for export. 

    This is in lieu of the numerous complaints received on the quality of avocados imported to the European Union and the United Arab Emirates.

    “We are looking to safeguard these critical markets, improve fruit quality aspects in line with global market requirements and safeguard Kenya’s competitiveness in the global arena. With this in mind, we would urge all avocado value chain actors to comply with this directive,” read part of a statement from the HCD.

    Through the Agriculture and Food Authority of Kenya, farmers were also advised to adhere to Harvest and Post-Harvesting handling that conforms to Good Handling Practices.

    Related News: Hass avocado earn farmers premium in international markets

    Related News: Kakuzi given green light to export avocado to China

    Measuring avocado dry matter content is a precise way of detecting maturity that ensures only mature fruits are picked and that their flavour profile is fully developed. 

    Dry matter percentage is determined by maturity at harvest and varies with region, season, variety, and consumer taste. 

    Last year, the agriculture ministry briefly barred avocado exports due to the harvesting and export of immature fruits. This has had a negative impact on the image of the country in overseas markets as well as interfering with the cropping cycle of trees which reduces projected volumes in subsequent harvests.

    Related News: Global avocado demand projected to double by 2024.

    In a consumer research study on the effects of dry matter percentage (DM%), the acceptance of the quality of avocados declined from approximately 95% to 70% if the DM was below 23% and up to 70% of consumers would choose 26% DM avocados over 22% DM avocados.

    Avocado remains Kenya’s main fruit export. 85 million kilograms of avocados were shipped from the country in 2021 netting Sh14.4 billion. The leading destinations for Kenya's avocado were the UK, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Holland, and France. 

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