The market value of fruit produced rose by one-fifth last year to Sh49 billion, driven by new premium crops and increased interest in farming.

Data from the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA) shows bananas remained the most valuable fruit with harvests worth Sh18.9 billion. The crop is largely produced in Meru, Migori, Taita Taveta, Kisii and Kirinyaga.

โ€œIncrease in production and value could be attributed to more land under irrigation โ€“ approximately 128 hectares โ€“ in Migori County, adoption of superior varieties, exposure of farmers to modern agronomic practices, packaging and standardisation,โ€ said HCDA in its annual industry report released last week.

HCDA noted counties like Kirinyaga and Murangโ€™a that sold the bananas by weight instead of bunch size had higher farm-gate prices. New fruit such as grapes and strawberries also proved to be money makers for farmers, yielding higher values than the others.

There was a total of 131 acres under strawberries which yielded 410 metric tonnes worth Sh50 million.

The figures indicate that a metric tonne was retailing at approximately Sh122,000, which was the highest return compared to grapes that averaged Sh96,200 a metric tonne and apples at Sh48,900.

โ€œGrapes are a new tropical fruit crop in Kenya which command premium prices in the local fresh market. It has been grown under irrigation in some warm to hot areas, in particular Yatta, with success,โ€ said HCDA.

Watermelon was the only fruit that recorded a drop in value, which was attributed to a drop in price. Watermelon produce was valued at Sh1.8 billion down from Sh3 billion in 2012, when the price of each was Sh46 compared to last yearโ€™s price of Sh37.

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Total domestic value in the horticulture sector in 2013 amounted to Sh177 billion compared to Sh148 billion an year earlier. The growth was attributed to farmers committing more land to fruits and vegetables after realising they made better economic sense. The crops occupied an area of 1.5 million acres up from 1.2 million acres in 2012.

The government has been looking at using agriculture to tackle youth unemployment. It is offering soft loans to set up green houses and irrigation projects. Private companies such as listed investment firm Centum have also identified agriculture as a sector of growth.

Agriculture has previously failed due to reliance on rain-fed farming, planting of low quality seeds, lack of financing and poor market linkages.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange is currently in the process of setting up a commodities exchange which will help farmers link with buyers without relying on middlemen.

Commercial banks have also started structuring loan products that favour farmers, especially on the repayment schedule.

County governments are now setting standards for packaging of farm produce to ensure the farmers are not exploited by buyers. The sector has, however, been asked to invest more in value addition for maximum gains.

The horticulture sector has overcome stringent measures on chemical use introduced by the European market, which is the main consumer of Kenyan farm produce.

โ€œThis is attributed to integration of the traceability system in supply, enabling exporters to monitor chemical use by farmers directly,โ€ said HCDA.

Economic Importance of Grape Farming

The major usage of grapes is for different purposes like a table, wine, juice, and raisins. Fresh grapes are a fairly good source of minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, and vitamins like B. In addition, famous champagne and other dessert wines are prepared from grapes.

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The fruit contains about 20% sugar in an easily digestible form besides being rich in calcium and phosphorus. The World over it is grown mainly for winemaking (82% production), raisin making (10% production), and rest for table purpose (8%).

There are scopes for double cropping and harvesting round the year in certain varieties is practically feasible. In addition, sustaining productivity and minimizing risks in grape cultivation is possible.

Suitable Soil For Grape Farming in Kenya

You can grow grapes with a wide variety of soil. However, the yield and quality reach to the highest on good fertile soils have pH 6.5 to 8.5. In addition, grapes prefer organic carbon above 1.0%, are free of lime, and have a medium water holding capacity. Salinity in the soil is the major aspect that impacts the growth and yield of the crop.

Things To Consider in Commercial Grape Farming

  • First of all, decide what type of grapes you want to produce. Whether you want to grow for fresh consumption or processed food. Accordingly, plan everything.
  • Check whether the soil conditions are appropriate for the grapevine.
  • Select the right variety according to the season and agroclimatic condition.
  • You must adopt a proper plant protection system for your grapevine.
  • Finally, arrange the proper irrigation system for grapes cultivation.

Where to buy grapes seedlings

You can purchase grapes seedlings in Kenya at any Farmers Trend nursery or by contacting 0724-559286

Each rooted grape seedlings costs around 300Kshs and are available in Muthaiga and Muranga Nurseries by Farmers Trend

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