Tomatoes are an essential vegetable crop in Kenya, ranking as the second most consumed vegetable after potatoes. The tomato is not only popular for its delicious taste and high nutritional value but also for its economic importance. Tomatoes are a source of income for many small-scale farmers in Kenya, who rely on it as a cash crop to provide for their families’ basic needs. In this article, we will discuss tomato farming in Kenya, including the ideal growing conditions, cultivation practices, profitability, cost of production,ย  and potential challenges.

tomato farming in kenya
Organic red tomatoes. Agriculture image.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Tomatoes in Kenya

Tomatoes require specific environmental conditions to thrive, and it is essential to understand these conditions for successful tomato farming in Kenya. Tomatoes are warm-weather plants that require ample sunlight, warm temperatures, and well-drained soils. In Kenya, the ideal growing conditions for tomatoes include:

  1. Temperature: Tomatoes grow best in temperatures between 15ยฐC to 35ยฐC. Temperatures below 10ยฐC and above 40ยฐC can significantly affect the growth and development of tomatoes.
  2. Soil: Tomatoes thrive in well-drained soils rich in organic matter. The soil should be slightly acidic with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. The soil should also be well-aerated to allow proper root development.
  3. Water: Tomatoes require adequate water for proper growth and development. The ideal amount of water required by tomatoes is between 600mm to 800mm per year. However, excessive water can lead to waterlogging, which can cause root rot and other diseases.

Cultivation Practices for Tomato Farming in Kenya

Tomato farming in Kenya requires specific cultivation practices to achieve maximum yields. The following are some of the essential cultivation practices for tomato farming in Kenya:

  1. Seed Selection: The choice of tomato seeds is crucial in tomato farming in Kenya. It is essential to select seeds that are resistant to common tomato diseases and pests, such as bacterial wilt, nematodes, and whiteflies.
  2. Land Preparation: The land should be adequately prepared before planting. The land should be cleared of all vegetation, and any debris removed. The soil should be plowed and harrowed to loosen it and improve aeration.
  3. Planting: Tomato seeds should be sown in a nursery bed and transplanted to the field when they are between 6-8 weeks old. The spacing between tomato plants should be 60cm to 90cm apart, while the spacing between rows should be 90cm to 120cm apart.
  4. Irrigation: Tomatoes require regular watering to ensure optimal growth and development. Irrigation should be done regularly, especially during dry seasons.
  5. Fertilization: Tomatoes require adequate nutrients to grow and produce optimal yields. It is recommended to apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers to ensure proper growth and development.
  6. Harvesting: Depending on the variety of tomato planted, tomatoes will mature after 3-4 months after transplanting. Only harvest mature tomato fruits as green ones do not ripen well.

Potential Challenges in Tomato Farming in Kenya

Tomatoes are a popular crop in Kenya and are grown in different parts of the country due to their high nutritional value and commercial value. Tomatoes are used in various dishes and are a major ingredient in many food products. In Kenya, tomato farming is mostly done by small-scale farmers, and it is one of the key sources of income for many households. However, tomato farming in Kenya is not without challenges. Below, we will look at some of the potential challenges that farmers may face when growing tomatoes in Kenya.

  1. Pest and disease management: One of the major challenges that farmers face when growing tomatoes in Kenya is pest and disease management. There are several pests and diseases that attack tomato plants, such as aphids, whiteflies, leaf miners, nematodes, and bacterial wilt. These pests and diseases can cause significant damage to the crops, leading to reduced yields or even total crop failure. Some of the common diseases that affect tomatoes in Kenya include bacterial wilt, late blight, and tomato yellow leaf curl virus. These diseases are difficult to control, and farmers may need to use chemical pesticides and fungicides, which can be expensive and harmful to the environment.
  2. Soil fertility and management: Another potential challenge that farmers face when growing tomatoes in Kenya is soil fertility and management. Tomatoes require well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for optimal growth. However, most soils in Kenya are naturally acidic and nutrient-poor, which can make it difficult for farmers to achieve good yields. To overcome this challenge, farmers need to implement good soil management practices, such as crop rotation, organic matter application, and soil testing. These practices can help to improve soil fertility and ensure that the crops have access to the nutrients they need for growth.
  3. Water management: Tomatoes require regular watering to ensure good growth and yields. However, water is a scarce resource in many parts of Kenya, and farmers may face challenges in accessing and managing water for their crops. In some areas, rainfall is erratic, and farmers may need to rely on irrigation to ensure that their crops get enough water. However, irrigation can be expensive and require significant infrastructure, such as pumps, pipes, and reservoirs. Additionally, over-irrigation can lead to waterlogging and other problems that can affect plant growth.
  4. Market access: Another potential challenge that tomato farmers face in Kenya is market access. Tomatoes are a perishable crop, and farmers need to sell them quickly after harvest to avoid spoilage. However, the market for tomatoes can be unpredictable, and farmers may struggle to find buyers or get fair prices for their crops. Additionally, some farmers may lack access to reliable transport and storage facilities, which can make it difficult to get their crops to market in good condition.
  5. Climate change: Climate change is a global challenge that affects agriculture in many ways, including tomato farming in Kenya. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can affect crop growth and yields, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts can damage crops and infrastructure. Additionally, climate change can lead to the emergence of new pests and diseases that can affect tomato crops. Farmers need to be aware of these challenges and implement adaptive strategies, such as crop diversification, to reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
  6. Lack of access to credit: Tomato farming in Kenya requires significant investment in inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. However, many farmers in Kenya lack access to credit, which can make it difficult to invest in their crops. This lack of access to credit can limit farmers’ ability to adopt new technologies, purchase inputs, and expand their operations.
  7. Post-harvest losses: Post-harvest losses are a significant challenge for tomato farmers in Kenya. Tomatoes are highly perishable and require proper handling and storage to prevent spoilage. However, many farmers lack access to appropriate storage facilities, such as cold rooms, which can result in significant post-harvest losses. Additionally, poor handling practices, such as rough handling during transportation, can also lead to bruising and spoilage of the crops.
  1. Lack of technical knowledge and skills: Tomato farming in Kenya requires technical knowledge and skills, such as crop management, pest and disease control, irrigation, and post-harvest handling. However, many small-scale farmers in Kenya lack access to training and extension services, which can limit their ability to adopt best practices and improve their yields. Additionally, the lack of access to information and technology can limit farmers’ ability to adapt to changing market conditions and climate patterns.
  2. Limited access to inputs and equipment: Small-scale farmers in Kenya may face challenges in accessing quality inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, which can limit their ability to achieve good yields. Additionally, many farmers lack access to appropriate equipment, such as irrigation pumps, tractors, and harvesters, which can make it difficult to manage their crops effectively and efficiently.
  3. Land fragmentation and tenure insecurity: Land fragmentation and tenure insecurity can also pose challenges to tomato farming in Kenya. Many small-scale farmers in Kenya have small plots of land, which can limit their ability to achieve economies of scale and adopt modern farming technologies. Additionally, unclear land tenure and insecure land rights can make it difficult for farmers to access credit and invest in their farms.
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Conclusion on tomato farming challenges in Kenya

Tomato farming in Kenya is a crucial source of income for many small-scale farmers, but it is not without its challenges. Pest and disease management, soil fertility and management, water management, market access, climate change, lack of access to credit, post-harvest losses, lack of technical knowledge and skills, limited access to inputs and equipment, and land fragmentation and tenure insecurity are all potential challenges that farmers may face. However, with appropriate support and interventions, such as training and extension services, access to credit and inputs, and investment in infrastructure and technology, farmers can overcome these challenges and achieve good yields and incomes from tomato farming.

Tomato farming profitability per acre in Kenya

Tomato farming is one of the most popular agricultural activities in Kenya, and it can be a profitable venture for farmers who follow good agricultural practices and have access to reliable markets. In this response, we will provide a comprehensive analysis of tomato farming profitability per acre in Kenya, considering factors such as yield, production costs, market prices, and risks.

  • Yield of tomato per acre: The average tomato yield in Kenya is approximately 20 to 25 tonnes per hectare, which translates to 8 to 10 tonnes per acre. However, some farmers have been able to achieve yields of up to 50 tonnes per hectare (20 tonnes per acre) through the use of high-quality seeds, good agronomic practices, and effective pest and disease control.
  • Production costs of tomato farming in Kenya:ย  The cost of producing one acre of tomatoes can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the location, availability of labor and inputs, and the farmer’s experience and expertise. However, some of the major production costs include land preparation, seedlings, fertilizer, pesticides, labor, and irrigation.
  • Land preparation: typically involves clearing the land, tilling the soil, and incorporating organic matter, such as compost or manure. The cost of land preparation can range from Ksh. 25,000 to Ksh. 50,000 per acre.
  • The cost of tomato seedlings per acre: depends on the variety and quality of the seeds. Generally, hybrid seeds are preferred for their higher yield potential and disease resistance. The cost of seedlings can range from Ksh. 8,000 to Ksh. 22,000 per acre.
  • Fertilizer: is an essential input for tomato farming, and it is recommended to apply both organic and inorganic fertilizers. The cost of fertilizer can range from Ksh. 15,000 to Ksh. 35,000 per acre.
  • Pesticides: are necessary for controlling pests and diseases, which can significantly reduce yields. The cost of pesticides can range from Ksh. 5,000 to Ksh. 25,000 per acre.
  • Labor costs: can be a significant component of production costs, especially during planting, weeding, and harvesting. The cost of labor can range from Ksh. 30,000 to Ksh. 50,000 per acre.
  • Irrigation: is essential for tomato farming, especially during the dry season. The cost of irrigation can range from Ksh. 10,000 to Ksh. 40,000 per acre.
  • Market prices The market price for tomatoes can vary depending on the season, location, and quality. In Kenya, the average price of tomatoes ranges from Ksh. 30 to Ksh. 80 per kilogram, depending on the quality and location. However, prices can fluctuate widely during the peak season, which is usually from December to March, and the low season, which is from April to September.
  • Profitability: Using the estimated production costs and market prices above, the gross revenue per acre can be calculated as follows:
  • Total revenue (20 tons x Ksh. 50/kg) = Ksh. 1,000,000
  • Total production costs (Ksh. 68,000 + Ksh. 10,000 + Ksh. 12,500 + Ksh. 7,500 + Ksh. 40,000 + Ksh. 15,000) = Ksh. 153,000
  • Gross profit (Total revenue – Total production costs) = Ksh. 847,000

However, this is just an estimate, and actual profits can vary depending on several factors, such as yields, market prices, production costs, and risks. It is essential to note that tomato farming is a high-risk venture due to factors such as pests and diseases, weather fluctuations, and market

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The best month to plant tomato in Kenya

In Kenya, the best time to plant tomatoes depends on the region and the prevailing weather conditions. Generally, the best time to plant tomatoes is during the rainy season when there is enough moisture in the soil to support the growth of the plants.

In most parts of Kenya, the long rains occur from March to May, and the short rains from October to December. Therefore, the best months to plant tomatoes in Kenya are usually February to March for the long rains season and September to October for the short rains season.

However, it is important to note that planting time can vary depending on the variety of tomato and the specific climate conditions of the region. It is always recommended to consult with local experts or agricultural extension officers to determine the best planting time and practices for your specific location.

The most common tomato varieties in Kenya

There are many tomato varieties grown in Kenya, but here are 20 common varieties:

  1. Anna F1
  2. Money Maker
  3. Tylka F1
  4. Marglobe
  5. Rio Grande
  6. Roma
  7. Moneymaker Improved
  8. Floradade
  9. Oxheart
  10. Star 9031
  11. Cherry Grande
  12. Viva F1
  13. Kilele F1
  14. Kileleshwa
  15. Pasa F1
  16. Heinz 1370
  17. Cal J
  18. Red Currant
  19. Ace 55 VF
  20. Beefmaster

Anna F1 is a popular variety in Kenya because it is resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl virus, and produces high yields of medium-sized, firm, and juicy fruits. Money Maker is also a popular variety because it is resistant to diseases and produces uniform, round fruits. Tylka F1 is another popular variety that produces high yields of large, juicy fruits.

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Marglobe and Rio Grande are both large, meaty tomatoes that are commonly used for canning and sauce making. Roma tomatoes are another variety that is popular for canning, as they have fewer seeds and a meaty texture.

Moneymaker Improved is an improved version of the Money Maker variety, with higher yields and better disease resistance. Floradade is a variety that is resistant to many tomato diseases and produces large, flavorful fruits.

Oxheart is a variety that produces large, heart-shaped fruits that are juicy and flavorful. Star 9031 is a determinate variety that produces high yields of medium-sized fruits. Cherry Grande is a small cherry tomato variety that is sweet and flavorful.

Viva F1 is a hybrid variety that produces high yields of large, juicy fruits that are resistant to many diseases. Kilele F1 is another hybrid variety that produces high yields of flavorful, disease-resistant fruits.

Kileleshwa is a variety that produces medium-sized, firm fruits that are good for both fresh eating and processing. Pasa F1 is a hybrid variety that produces high yields of flavorful, disease-resistant fruits.

Heinz 1370 is a variety that is commonly used for processing into ketchup, due to its high solids content and rich flavor. Cal J is another processing variety that is known for its high yields and disease resistance.

Red Currant is a small cherry tomato variety that is very sweet and flavorful. Ace 55 VF is a determinate variety that produces large, juicy fruits that are resistant to many diseases. Beefmaster is a large, meaty variety that is commonly used for slicing and making sandwiches.

The best regions to grow tomatoes in Kenya

Tomatoes are a popular crop in Kenya, and they can be grown in many regions throughout the country. However, the best regions for tomato cultivation in Kenya are those with suitable soil, climate, and water availability. Here are some of the top tomato-growing regions in Kenya:

  1. Central Region: The Central Region is known for its fertile soils and temperate climate, making it an ideal location for growing tomatoes. Some of the areas in this region include Kiambu, Murang’a, and Nyeri.
  2. Rift Valley Region: The Rift Valley region is known for its warm and dry climate, which is perfect for growing tomatoes. The areas in this region that are suitable for tomato cultivation include Nakuru, Naivasha, and Eldoret.
  3. Eastern Region: The Eastern Region has a semi-arid climate, but with proper irrigation, tomatoes can thrive. Some of the areas in this region that are suitable for tomato cultivation include Machakos, Kitui, and Meru.
  4. Western Region: The Western Region is known for its high rainfall, which can make it difficult to grow tomatoes. However, with proper soil management and pest control, tomatoes can be grown successfully in areas such as Kakamega and Bungoma.
  5. Coastal Region: The Coastal Region has a hot and humid climate, which can make it challenging to grow tomatoes. However, with proper irrigation and soil management, tomatoes can be grown successfully in areas such as Mombasa and Malindi.

It is important to note that tomato cultivation requires proper soil preparation, irrigation, pest management, and disease control for successful growth and high yields.

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