Edwin Kipkoech Rono, 32, is one of a handful of young farmers in the North Rift region who have moved from traditional cereal and dairy production to horticulture commodities for export.
Passion fruit farming is an easy business to start with little capital, but the financial rewards are much bigger than expected.
Rono, who would be supplying over 6,000 sacks of maize, was looking for a profitable crop. Following his research, he decided to start cultivating passion fruit on his 150-acre farm.
According to Simon Kirima, Director of Operations at Kerys Kool Fresh, a passion fruit exporter, a hectare of land may yield 15 to 20 tonnes of fruit, earning farmers up to one million shillings, compared to maize, which pays between KES35,000 and KES60,000 per acre.
His first step into the sector was to research the several varieties of horticultural crops that may be grown in the area, taking into account soil health and market accessibility.
He used the revenues from cereal crops to invest KES150,000 in passion fruit growing on a three-acre plot, allowing him to obtain sufficient finances to engage in large-scale farming.
Expansion of the Business
By growing the purple type, he was able to expand his production to 15 acres. Every year, he rents land for KES15,000 per acre on a three-year contract.
Passion fruit cultivation, according to Mr Rono, has lower operational expenses than maize farming, making it a successful venture.
“Maize farming is a tad expensive because most passion fruit expenditures are only made when spraying pesticides for blight,” he stated, adding that passion fruit is harvested for two years before being replanted.
Mr Rono began with one person and now has 28 part-time employees.
“One of the advantages of this form of farming is that I am my boss, and I have also employed part-time workers,” he stated.
He attributes his horticultural success to the application of good agricultural practices as well as the availability of a ready market for his products.
Real Estate Venture
He intends to reinvest the money from this firm and go into real estate afterwards.
“I’d want to work in real estate for the next 5-10 years. I’ve already begun since I’ve acquired several plots to utilize in the implementation of this project,” he explained.
Mr Rono encouraged the youth to invest in agribusiness, saying, “Horticulture is proven to be a more profitable undertaking than maize farming because of the available market at appealing pricing.”
Passion fruit cultivation in Kenya is expected to grow in prevalence due to the large and developing market, as well as shifting customer tastes as Kenyans migrate away from carbonated soft beverages and toward fresh juices.
Furthermore, companies such as Coca-Cola, Afia juices, and Del-Monte have either begun or are planning to begin purchasing various fruits from farmers to enter the fresh fruits processing market.