PIXIE FARMING, the citrus fruit spawning agribusinesses worth millions of shillings
At Itangini, a sprawling fruit market near Wote Town, the administrative capital of Makueni County, among all the fruits here one stands out. Its name is pixie, a citrus variety.
The yellow-orange coloured fruit has a rough texture but is easy to peel and is fleshy, seedless and juicy. The fruit has taken farmers in Makueni by storm, spawning agribusinesses worth millions of shillings in the area.
The farmers are growing the fruits and propagating seedlings for sale.
James Carlos Kilai, a manager with a regional airline, is one of the pixie farmers in Kalamba village, Makueni. The 34-year-old owns an acre of pixies and further propagates some 10,000 seedlings.
“This is a lucrative fruit, better than oranges, mangoes, avocados, melons and others that do well in Ukambani. I sell seedlings at Sh250 each and the fruits go from Sh30 for each or Sh120 a kilo,” he says.
To propagate the seedling, he starts with a lemon rootstock because the fruit is resistant to nematodes and diseases.
“I then join the lemon stock to a pixie scion,” he says
Pixie seedlings are planted in 2x2x2 feet holes, except in clay soils where the depth should be 3 feet. One should mix the clay soil with top soil, manure and a bucket of sand.
“Seedlings respond well to organic manure. They flower after two-and-half years after planting with peak production reaching after five to six years,” says Kilai, who has 238 fruit trees.
The farmer makes at least Sh20,000 every week during the April-September harvest window. More money comes from the sale of seedlings.
“I market my fruits on Facebook and deliver the orders mainly over the weekends,” says the father of one, who has been in pixie farming for over five years.
“Pixies are easy to sell because of their striking yellow-orange colour and good taste. Most customers ask for seedlings to plant after eating them,” says Kilai, who is eyeing the retail outlets market.
WITHSTOOD TEST OF TIME
Ambrose Kimanthi, another pixie farmer, grows the fruit in Muthyoi village. The 40-year-old father of three lives off his 15-acre orchard that is also home to oranges, lemons and tangarines.
He irrigates the pixie trees during the dry season and applies manure to boost productivity.
“Each tree produces 60kg of fruits on average per season. I sell to traders who buy them from my farm at Sh120 a kilo,” says the farmer, who has 10 acres under pixie, oranges three and one each for lemons and tangerines.
From the proceeds of his pixie farm, the farmer has been able to take his children to prestigious schools, has acquired several properties in Wote and owns two sports utility vehicles and a lorry.
He regularly teams up with other pixie farmers in the area to travel the country to unwind.
Ukambani became a fruit heaven after a tough period in 1995 in which a quarantine against citrus fruits had been imposed.
“The government advised citrus farmers to uproot their trees around that time as one way of insulating themselves from the greening disease that had devasted the crop in previous years and which had defeated known conventional interventions,” Nichodemus Ngeka, the head of Agriculture and Food Authority in Makueni County, says.
Citrus farmers in most growing zones in the present day Machakos and Makueni counties complied with the government directive.
However, some farmers moved to Nziu around the imposing Nzaui Hill in Makueni and established orchards, according to Ngeka, and the result has been a thriving citrus belt that has spawned sweet enterprises that have withstood the test of time.
The quarantine was revoked in 2011 by the Horticultural Crops Directorate, according to Ngeka.
“As farmers, we kept on exploring ways of earning more from our orchards over the years and that is how we picked on pixie,” said Kimanthi.
Pixie, unknown to many, was introduced in Nziu four decades ago by Peter Mwaka, a teacher in Mutulani Primary School, who would later quit teaching for agribusiness.
“I came across pixie in 1976 while on a trip in California, the US,” Mwaka tells Seeds of Gold on his 30-acre orchard on the leeward side of Mutooni Hill in Muthyoi village.
The teacher, who was growing oranges and lemons, was attracted to the baseball-sized fruits with a striking colour when ripe.
“I imagined having them on my orchard in Kenya,” he says, a dream that he would actualise after a subsequent trip in South Africa.
“Spotting the fruits again in Pretoria later, I could not contain my desire,” he recalls. “A farmhand gave me three scions. I hid them in a cake wrapping and brought them home. I don’t regret the decision.”
“I’m working on branding my produce and then I’ll start exporting the fruits. I have already acquired Global GAP certificate that enables me to sell my produce abroad,” he says.
The main challenge with growing pixie, according to farmers, is the fluctuation in prices due to increased production. This has lowered prices of the fruit.
To overcome the challenge, some farmers like Kilai have tried to alter the production and harvesting season through irrigation.
“Watering the trees around July and August makes them start flowering to produce fruits earlier compared to the rain-fed trees.”
He, however, says the method is expensive.
“Since trees flower when others are not yet flowering, attacks on pests is very high. All pests in the neighbourhood tend to strike on my farm leaving more damage,” he says.
Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation director in-charge of the Matuga station Michael Njunie says that pixie is a cross between oranges and tangerines and is a native fruit of California, US.
He says it does well in the coastal lowlands and lower midland areas like Makueni.
For Best Results
Ecological needs of pixie
- Pixie, like other fruits in the citrus family like tangerines and oranges, thrives well in a wide range of soil types.
- For best results, they should be grown in well-drained soils which are fertile and we’ll aerated.
- The soils should have a PH value of 6-6.5.
- They are planted in a sunny wind protected areas that are free from frosts.
- The fruit is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
Hits: 590https://farmerstrend.co.ke/pixie-farming-the-citrus-fruit-spawning-agribusinesses-worth-millions-of-shillings/https://i0.wp.com/farmerstrend.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/citrus_farming-pixie-farming-in-kenya.jpg?fit=1024%2C512&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/farmerstrend.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/citrus_farming-pixie-farming-in-kenya.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1#TrendingFruitsOrange Farmingpixie farming in kenyaAt Itangini, a sprawling fruit market near Wote Town, the administrative capital of Makueni County, among all the fruits here one stands out. Its name is pixie, a citrus variety. The yellow-orange coloured fruit has a rough texture but is easy to peel and is fleshy, seedless and juicy. The...#FarmersTrendJohn Bujufarmerstrend@gmail.comAdministratorI am a web enthusiast, writer and blogger. I always strive to be passionate about my work. I started my work at the beginning of 2013 by engaging myself with detail reading and exchanging information regarding farming with others. Since then things and times have changed, but one thing remains the same and that is my passion for helping and educating Kenyan farmers, building a successful blog and delivering quality content to the readers. The particular interests that brought me in the world of blogging are gardening, farming and livestock.Farmers#Trend