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Young broccoli farmer banks on new South Korea market

Lawrence Njoroge broccoli farmer

Lawrence Njoroge, broccoli farmer from Lari holding harvested broccolis. He has already matured crops but he is facing market challenges. Photo courtecy.

A 19 year old farmer from Lari Constituency in Central Kenya who started growing broccoli in 2014 has remained persistent in cultivating the crop despite facing market price fluctuations that sometimes cause him much losses.

According to Lawrence Njoroge, brokers’ orders have decreased over the last one month due to low market demand reducing the prices from Sh60 or Sh80 per kilo to Sh30 or Sh40.

“I have just harvested a small section of the farm between mid-December last year and January this year to sell at a throw-away price of Sh30 or Sh40 to brokers from Nairobi’s Wakulima Market and Kiambu Town on order,” said Njoroge.

However, he is optimistic that the market will pick up this year and especially given that South Korea will be importing the produce from the country, according to a statement issued last month by the Ministry of Trade.

This will increase demand of the crop especially from horticulture exporters.

“The purpose of this announcement is to bring this information to your attention and request your assistance in contacting farmers and exporters of the above products so that they can advantage of this opportunity,” said Dr. Chris Kiptoo, principal secretary State Department of Trade in a media statement.

Njoroge started farming broccoli and cauliflower five years ago when he was in form two at Mogeko Mixed Secondary School with Sh1,700 savings from his pocket money savings and Sh1,000 loan from his mother.

“I used my savings to buy seeds and the loan to buy some pesticide and fertiliser then stated off the venture on a quarter piece of plot part of family land,” said Njoroge.

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However, the young farmer who is urgently in need of buyers is currently facing marketing challenges which may see him waste more than 500 kilos of the crop due to poor prices caused by low demand towards the end of last year.

At some point, he used to harvest and transport the produce to some two traders in Mombasa but over time demand went from declined to almost zero.

According to Kenya Horticultural Exporters Ltd (KHE), dealers in vegetables, avocado, passion fruits and herbs, most smallholder farmers lack market for their produce because of their low production scale. Additionally, the farmers either lack information on contract farming or unwillingness to work with buyer companies.

“We encourage the farmers to team up and produce enough to much the demand of bigger companies which buy and sell in both local and international markets but some lack the information or are not willing hence they from time to time face marketing challenges,” said KHE agronomist.

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Currently Njoroge’s scale of production is over 1,000 metric tonnes of broccoli from his a quarter farm having started small.

He has since leased other two quarter acre piece of plots where he has extended his production planning to further venture in chives, basil spinach and kales.

The 2016 form four leaver is not planning to further his studies any soon as he wants to focus more on the short term crops production and better his life out of it.

“I have realised that with passion, persistent and full attention on my farming is all I require to move my venture to the next level before thinking about other commitments.”

To him, farming was his source of fees and has been their family livelihood for a long time and leaving the venture can be so risky.

Njoroge says he used to attend to his crops very early in the morning, 5:30 am to 6:30 am before preparing to catch up his lesson at 8:00 am while his mother could help in the course of the day.

While his peers went out for various sorts of recreation activities during weekends and holidays, Njoroge could spend most of his time in the farm.

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How to export broccoli

According to Eunice Mutua, founder and CEO of Select Fresh Produce, exporter of fruits, vegetables and cereals, exporting broccoli to other countries comes with different requirements for exporters and farmers.

She says that exporters have the following:

  • Export licence from HCDA
  • Phytosanitary and conformity certificates from KEPHIS
  • GlobalGAP Certification

“Exporters are supposed to understand well the GlobalGAP requirements in order to train farmers on how to meet them. This will avoid rejection of the produce at the export point and rate our produce highest in the global market.”

Exported tender stem broccoli should have mid to dark green leaves, heads should be fresh, firm and turgid, no pest damage with no length and 6-10 mm diameter is required only allowing less than 10 per cent outside the range. Single terminal heads used with straight heads packaged in crates free from any soil contaminants.

Njoroge can be reached on +254 717919761

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