It’s usually the case where exotic fruits are alluring to consumers in an abundant amount. However, can they be profitable to farmers? Can they bring out higher profits in agriculture, especially in Kenya? Dragon Fruit farming has been seen as an attractive investment opportunity since it’s a high income generating crop that requires very little work once established. Here are the 3 main reasons why farmers should venture into dragon fruit farming;
1) Easy to plant and maintain
Dragon fruit plants grow rapidly reaching their full height of 2-3 meters within three years. The dragon fruit has adapted to survive under harsh conditions, making them ideal for subsistence farming in the tropics where the soil is less fertile and therefore requires little care once established.
They have spines on their leaves which protect them from predators. They are also drought-resistant, but they do need sufficient water at some point during the year if continuously bearing fruits. If there is no irrigation source near your farm then you can plan for rain harvesting structures to cater to this water need. Farmers can easily get an abundant yield from this plant, which is another reason why it is a good investment.
2) Low input and high returns
Many farmers have been able to get a good return from exporting fruit because of the demand in many countries around the world. The fruit has become increasingly popular and is increasing in value in the local and export markets. So far, there is a low supply and a high demand for dragon fruits. This makes it ideal for small-scale investors who might not be able to invest large amounts of capital but want to benefit from agricultural exports. To maximize profits, farmers should process the fruit, using it to add value to various products such as energy bars, ice cream, yogurt, juices, pastries, and jelly.
A single fruit weighs between 600 grams and 1.2kg. A kilo of a dragon fruit retails for between Kshs. 750 and Kshs. 1000 making it one of the most expensive fruits. It’s so expensive because of its supply and demand factors, whereby consumers are willing to pay more just to get it even if they do not know what it tastes like.
3) High nutritional value hence a high demand
The fruit is a mix of crunchy and juicy textures. It contains high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, or iron which are important for good health. The fruit also contains fiber that helps the body to absorb essential nutrients from food as well as regulate bowel function. This means that the farmers will benefit from their investment because they can easily sell these fruits without needing any processing expertise, thus creating a higher return on investment.
Recommendation for farmers
The above reasons are the main drivers which make dragon fruit lucrative to local farmers. Because of its high demand in the market, one can easily get good returns on investment. However, there are some challenges which most farmers face like how to produce quality fruit for export and the best farm practices to apply when growing this crop.
We recommend that you should make use of local dragon fruit seedlings or rooted cuttings instead of using seeds since buying is more economical than getting the plant from an open field where it might have been exposed to diseases like bacterial wilt. Also, research on areas with suitable weather conditions before venturing into cultivation especially in terms of temperature and rainfall patterns.
Make sure you have a market for the produce before going into production since it takes up to 5 months from planting to harvesting. Ensure your farm is protected from birds and pests which can eat ripen fruits. Seek advice from established farmers who harvest regularly or experienced extension officers and know how to deal with any pest or disease that might affect your crop.
Farmers should do proper planning such as demand forecast, site selection and equipment purchase.