A farmer from Nyamira County who made losses due to mismanagement and factory bean robbers in the coffee sector shunned the crop for passion fruit farming, a venture which is earning him Sh5,500 per 50kg bag of fruit as it is increasingly becoming in demand in the juice processing industry.
James Kiriago grew one passion fruit seedling outside his home in Magwagwa for domestic consumption. In three months, it yielded more than 500 fruits, which he sold to traders collecting fruits for sale in Kisumu.
“When the traders came unexpectedly to buy from the fruits after they were shown my farm by some brokers, I had ‘too little to offer them as their demand was big. This is the time I realized the worth of the fruit and I decided to pursue it,” said Kiriago.
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Last year, he planted more than 100 purple passion fruit seedlings, which have turned part of his quarter-acre farm into a bush.
“The harvest is gradual. But after a full flowering, which happens in about two months, I harvest two to three 50kg bags at an interval of two weeks. The Kisumu traders look for me; I never look for them. It is an easy business that I do unlike coffee, which had turned unpredictable even after depositing my beans to the factory,” Kiriago said.
After selling each of the fruits at Sh4, one 50kg bag earns him between Sh5,500 and Sh6,000. The variation is caused by size disparity.
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Currently, a bag of 50kg of passion farming retails at Sh3,800 in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Nakuru, Sh3,100 in Kisumu, Sh2,850 in Eldoret, and Sh4,560 in Malindi.
Coca-Cola is one of the international beverage companies contracting farmers to supply passion fruit. Other companies are importing concentrates from South Africa and other regions to meet their demand.
Passion fruit is highly susceptible to fusarium wilt attack.
But for Kiriago, fruit flies and leaf miners are the main challenges, but he keeps their effect low with weekly pesticide strays.
Just like in other parts of Kenya where coffee is grown, robbers regularly break into factories and steal thousands of kilograms of the beans, leading to losses of millions of shillings.
Mnangagwa coffee factory is not an exception. Although the Nyimira County farmer has a few coffee bushes, the crop is no longer his focus.