Passion fruit farming in Kenya and what you need to know
Passion fruit farming in Kenya popularity, is set to rise even more, due to changing consumer preferences as Kenyans move from carbonated soft drinks to fresh juices. Do you know that Passion fruit is the third most popular fruit in Kenya after mangoes and bananas respectively.
Furthermore, brands like Coca-cola, Afia juices, Del-Monte are already sourcing various fruits and vegetables from farmers or are in the process of doing in a bid to tap fresh fruits processing segments.
Despite all the interest by fresh drink processors, the supply of this fruit is scarce because of erratic supply to the market thus presenting opportunities to farmers in form of increased prices.
A visit to various market centers in Nairobi, Kiambu, Eldoret, Kisumu, Mombasa and other towns reveals that fewer traders sell the crop compared to bananas or mangoes this indicates very few farmers have taken the crop seriously as a source of revenue.
Economic importance of passion fruit farming in Kenya
Data from the Horticultural development authority indicates by 2010, the acreage of passion fruit in Kenya was 5,418 Hectares yielding 55,094 metric valued at 1.9 billion Kenya shillings.
The major challenge in production has been cited as lack of clean planting material free from woodiness caused by viruses and diseases like like fusarium wilt and die back caused by fungi.
The only region where passion is not affected by stress from woodiness, fusarium wilt and dieback is western province therefore production should be encouraged in this region.
Another reason for increased production is the use of yellow passion as the rootstock that is resistant to fusarium wilt and die back.
This farming enterprise can easily be started with little capital yet the financial returns can be more than previously thought possible.
The crop produces high yields under proper care for instance a yield of 50,000 kg of passion fruit per hectare has been reported in Kenya.
Daily Data from the ministry of agriculture website indicates that the average price of One kilo of passion fruits is 50 shillings in various markets centers of the country; however, farmers can still sell at a higher price.
It is possible to earn more, if the farmer does direct marketing, that involves approaching restaurants, supermarkets and hotels that one most occasions buy one kilo for 100 shillings.
From one hectare,it’s possible to earn over 2,000,000 shillings; an earning that exceeds that of maize, beans and many other farming enterprises.
Furthermore,the maturity and ripening of the fruits, does not happen at the same time some take 3 days others 1 week others 2 weeks.
This is advantageous, as it allows the farmer to harvest weekly, he will have time to market his produce.
It has also been proven that passions are perennial plants; once planted, their lifespan is long often exceeding 3 years; all these depends on how the plant is managed and fertilized.
During this long growth period, a farmer will be performing farm maintenance practices such as weeding, spraying with pesticides, and fungicides among others as he waits for harvest.
He can still intercrop with vegetables like beans cabbages and tomatoes, eggplants other recommended crops like potatoes, beetroot, spinach, strawberries, eggplants, onions, leeks and head lettuce.
However precaution should be taken not to intercrop with cucurbits like cucumbers, pumpkins, and other crops like okra, sweet potatoes or creepers as these crops are affected by those diseases that affect passion fruit.
One plant if carefully tended, can grow vigorously to a length of over 20 meters after the first 4-5 months of transplanting yielding over 50 kg of fruit.
The plant has a deep root system which is an ability that makes it resistant to drought.
Finally, passion fruit juice is a delicacy and is in high demand in the local and international markets thus a farmer is assured that his produce will be bought.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Propagation
The plant is propagated through seed, cuttings and through tissue culture. Seed is the most common method of propagation for it is easily practiced even by inexperienced farmers.
The yellow passion is used as a rootstock since it is more tolerant to frost, nematodes and fusarium wilt compared to purple passion-fruit.
On the other hand, purple passion has a superior taste, higher juice content and hence a greater market demand.
Raising the rootstock and scion of yellow passion and purple passion respectively
To achieve high yields, a farmer must graft purple passion on yellow passion as the later is resistant to many soil borne diseases and pests.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Sowing the Seeds
To reduce the germination period, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.Start by sowing some seeds [say 30-50]of purple passion at a depth of 1 cm in separate plastic sleeves of a diameter of 15 cm and a depth of 25 cm.
After 3-4 months transplant them to a suitable place [the best place is near your nursery and close to a source of water] in the farm since they will act as a source of scions.
After transplanting the purple passion , sow the seeds of yellow passion fruit in plastic sleeves similar to those that you used for purple passion.
An important distinction between the seeds of the two varieties is, Yellow passion seeds are brown in color, while those of the purple passion are black in color.
Fresh seeds tend to germinate faster than older seeds therefore using them will save about 1 week.
After the yellow passion seedlings grow to a height of 15-20 cm and are woody, they are ready for grafting.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Grafting Passion Fruit Vines
This process involves the choosing the correct rootstock and scion. and identifying the most appropriate and common grafting technique is wedge grafting.
Success of the graft union depends on the experience of the farmer, the choice of rootstock and scion, management practices such as watering and cleanliness of graft union.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Choosing the Rootstock
The yellow passion seedling should have attained a thickness of 1 cm since a thin, fleshy stem reduces the chances of successful graft union.
Fleshy stems are prone to excessive transpiration thus leading to graft union failure.
Once a suitable rootstock with the aforesaid qualities has been selected, it is it defoliated, terminal end removed leaving a 8 cm long stem.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Choosing a Scion
A scion should also be of a thickness of 1 cm is obtained from an existing purple passion plant that is healthy and free from pests and diseases.
It should be woody enough and have 2 to 3 buds and it should be completely defoliated to reduce its rate of respiration.
The basal end is cut into a wedge shape that is 2 cm long to allow the xylem and the phloem vessels to be in contact with those of the rootstock.
A slit about 3 cm long is cut on the rootstock using a clean surgical blade, in which a fitting scion from purple passion is inserted and tied.
The graft joint is wrapped tightly using a plastic tape to ensure no air,water or fungi goes through the joint.
After 3 weeks the graft union is healed; the plant is hardened before it is transplanted.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Transplanting
A grafted seedling is ready for transplanting once it attains a transplanting height of 25-30 cm after 3-4 months.
During transplanting dig square holes of a width of 1 meter and a depth of 1 meter and separating top soil from sub soil.
The top soil is thoroughly mixed with 2-3 wheelbarrows well rotted manure, 1 kilo of DOLMAX® fertilizer or 1/2 kg of slow release fertilizer and 1/2 kg of BLACK EARTH® and afterwards filled back to the hole.
After this, the seedling is transplanted to the pre-filled hole. This is a tedious process but it is the key to the great yields.
When the plant is supplied with adequate manure, and fertilizer, it becomes resistant to pests such as nematodes and other diseases.
Using this strategy ensures that hardpans that tend to limit room for roots are removed because of the crop’s develops a deep root system enabling the plant to overcome low moisture levels.
One plant has the ability to produce up to 50 kg of fruits per year if it is supplied with the correct nutrients during the transplanting stage.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Husbandry of Passion Plant
The plant has slow growth during the first 5 months of its life cycle therefore regular weeding is needed for it to contend efficiently with weeds.
Passion fruits grow best at an altitude of 1200-2000 meters above sea level, and at a soil PH of 5.5 to 7.
Inter row spacing should be maintained at 1.2 to 1.8 meters while intra row spacing 3 meters. This gives a plant population of 1900-2700 in one hectare.
Injury to the plant during weeding should be avoided as bacteria and funguses will get entry to the plant through the wounds.
Once the plant has been transplanted, 4 lateral plants come out from the main vine.
Sometimes they may fail to do so, pinching the shoot tip forces the plant to reduce apical dominance thus encourage production of laterals.
The laterals are trellised on a 14 gauge galvanized wire stretched along the tops of posts whose diameter is 18 cm, 3 meter long and its base buried to a depth of 50-80 cm.
The crop should be kept free of diseases and pest through regular scouting for them and taking remedial action.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Harvesting
Fruits drop to the ground when fully mature and collected every second day. At this stage, the fruits are shriveled-the best condition for juice processing.
For the fresh fruit market, the fruits are harvested when the whole of the fruit is purple just before shriveling and drying sets in.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Value of passion fruits
They may not look very healthy but, Can you guess how much they cost me? let me make you work easy,i bought them for 25 Kenya shillings!
These three fruits weigh between 150-180 grams-that means that one kilo costs 138 shillings.
For those who love converting shillings into dollars, 1 kilo costs $1.62 approximating that 1 dollar=86 shillings.
Assuming that selling 30,000 kilos will cover your expenses; you lose 5,000 in form of spoilage, pests or other reasons; then 15,000 kilos will be your profit, multiply that by a selling price of $1 per kilo. Your profit will be $ 15,000.
Passion Fruit Farming in Kenya – Research
A 20-year research by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has developed three new passion fruit varieties, Kenya passion fruit number 4 (KPF 4), KPF 11 and KPF 12.
Experts say the new varieties could help lift the economic status of smallholder farmers and contribute to a rapid increase in passion fruit production. The new varieties are not only drought tolerant but are more suited to the fresh market and processing. Although these varieties are of similar physical characteristics with types grown in the coastal region, they are more superior in quality, according to Mr Joseph Njuguna a fruit expert at KARI-Thika.
“The new varieties are sweet unlike those grown in the coast region (Brazil, C5),” he says, adding that they are bigger in size, juicier and more tolerant to soil and foliar diseases.
Mr Njuguna said Kenya has begun to commercialise these varieties. Systems are in place to ensure quality and increased production. KARI will identify community nurseries in warm areas to transfer of the technology to farmers.
A multi-stakeholder project promoting commercialisation of passion fruit in Kenya is at the bulking stage the phase in which KARI ascertains that there are enough certified seedlings, which are propagated prior to their transfer to farmers. KARI 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 Ksh30 (35 US cents) but farmers could also purchase a gramme of seeds at Ksh60 (70 US cents). KARI estimates that a farmer can harvest as much as three tonnes from a hectare of land, while the farm-gate price of a kilogramme of fresh fruit is Ksh20 (24 US cents).
For this project, soft drink gian Coca Cola has offered to buy the passion fruit concentrates from intermediaries for later value addition into 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.
Passion fruit has quick financial returns for both the domestic and export markets because it takes only one year for the crop to mature.
Two more companies – Equity Bank and Sunny Processors – are collaborating with KARI in the project. Equity Bank will provide loans to passion fruit farmers while Sunny Processors will extract concentrates for sale to Coca Cola.
According to KARI researchers, vegetative material is obtained from locally growing varieties which have been bred with a superior strain. Data from KARI shows that two varieties have been predominantly grown in Kenya. The purple passion, the most common which does well in mid-attitude regions, 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, it is highly tolerant to soil-borne diseases. The yellow passion fruit‘s strength is in its acidity content and strong flavour.
“The KARI fruit breeding programme initiated activities to improve yellow passion fruit including use of the yellow type as the rootstalk,” explains Mr Njuguna.
The passion fruit breeding programme is also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Fresh produce of passion fruit cultivated in the North Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Provinces targets the local and regional markets. It 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. Diseases of economic importance are passion fruit woodiness virus complex, Fusarium wilt and brown spot. Majority of the growers apply sub-optimal fertilizers.
A local community group in Bungoma Good Neighbours that is supported by KARI, USAID and GIZ (previously PSDA GTZ) is focused on upscaling passion fruit in Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley Provinces. The chair of Good Neighbours Mrs Zippy Simiyu is instrumental in establishing 15 screenhouses for passion fruit production in Rift Valley (6), Western (7) and Nyanza (2) Provinces. Outputs from this initiative are targeting 200,000 households by 2015. To date 350,000 passion fruit seedlings have been distributed in this region. Another initiative spearheaded by KARI-Kitale recently disseminated 12kg of yellow passion fruit (cultivated on approximately 120 acres) and 17kg of purple passion fruit covering about 200 acres that contributes to a total of 360 acres in the North Rift. The bulk of the passion fruit goes to Uganda for juice processing.
KARI-Kitale also sells grafted seedlings and has been offering technical advice to farmers and directing them to registered nurseries such Good Neighbours, ESKAY and Lessos in Bungoma, Uasin Gishu and Nandi.
In Coast Province (Kilifi, Malindi, Kwale, Msambweni and South Coast), two KARI centres (KARI-Mtwapa and KARI-Matuga) have the capacity to train farmers on passion fruit agronomics, crop management practices and propagate various varieties of passion fruit including the yellow passion fruit (dominant variety (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa), KPF-4 and C5.
A recent survey spearheaded by Agricultural Business Development in Kwale and Msambweni indicates that over 3,808 passion fruit farmers have cultivated about 425ha of passion fruit or about 707,114 stems. The farmers earned Ksh154 million at farm-gate level and produced about 8,753 tonnes.
KARI research activities have developed passion fruit varieties that are pest and disease tolerant as well as high yielding and suited for coastal region. Genes from the yellow passion fruit which does well in Coast have been combined with the purple highland variety to produce a superior hybrid. The new hybrids have fruit that is sweeter and good for juice processing.