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Mango Exports To Europe Expected To Resume In September

Kenya expects to resume exporting mangoes to the European Union markets in September. The country had imposed a ban on exporting mangoes to Europe due to high levels of fruit flies. The temporary ban was imposed to protect the market and to ensure that farmers implement acceptable pest management practices. Fortunately, the eight-year self-imposed ban has been uplifted after the tests sent to the European Union indicated low fruit fly incidences.

According to Mr. Yako, the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) assistant director in charge of regulations and compliance, fruit fly infestation levels have been reducing drastically. This assures that producers and exporters can resume enjoying the lucrative EU markets.

Local fruit farmers have been battling with the fruit fly for almost two decades when Sri Lanka reported the presence of the pest in the country in 2003. Between 2010 and 2014, the presence of fruit fly infestation on Kenyan mangoes resulted in interceptions of several consignments by European Union regulatory authorities.

To minimize the fruit fly populations and to create pest-free zones, new strategies have been implemented. For instance, the government has been providing traps to small-scale farmers and has also launched the Komesha Fruit Fly Campaign. Besides, mango producers have been advised to embrace modern agricultural practices, use traps, and adhere to integrated pest management practices.

When the ban was enforced, Kenya shifted the exports to Middle East markets, selling the fruits at relatively lower prices compared to EU states. When mango exports to the EU resume, prices are expected to hike from Ksh 8 to Ksh 30 per fruit. In Europe for instance, a 4 kg carton costs Ksh 350 which translates into an average of Ksh 35 per fruit.

The government is collaborating with small-scale and large-scale producers to implement successful approaches to tame the spread of fruit flies and it has assured that there will be no complications in reopening the market.

Even as the market resumes, it has been noted that mangoes still find their way to Europe through third part markets, especially in Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.  To maintain its reputation and to prevent the entry of quarantine pests to EU states, the country has imposed tougher measures and wants a mark of origin on all horticultural produce exported to the European Union and other parts of the world.  A mark of origin will assure buyers in the European Union that the mangoes are coming from Kenya. Besides farmers will fetch higher returns compared to that from Middle East markets.

In Kenya, mango production is a significant economic enterprise. Commercial farmers mainly grow varieties known as Keitt, Kent, Apple, and Ngowe. Apart from a competitive advantage in the export markets, Kenyan mangoes have a unique value proposition. They are mainly produced in the Ukambani region especially Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui Counties, and in the Coastal regions. In Makueni, Apple, Kent, and Keitt are the most commonly grown varieties.

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Creating a Profit Pool For Farmers

The challenging market trends are forcing farmers to look for new ways to increase their produce volumes and increase profitability. To survive in the export market, farmers must embrace different agri-tech solutions. From precision agriculture to harvesting robots to farm management systems, digital technology is transforming and enhancing today’s agriculture. Previously, cooperatives connected farmers to the market. They bought the produce from the farmers in bulk. Mergers, acquisitions, and poor management have contributed to the decline of cooperatives. The market for fruits such as hass avocados is growing rapidly. The demand for fruits in the local and export market is also increasing.

Agricultural technology aims at solving the key challenges that farmers and exporters face with:

 Low market prices

 Low and poor quality yields

 Variable farm inputs with high prices

 Lack of traceability

 Poor farm management practices

 Lack of an ideal place for farmers to collaborate and share ideas

Software and agricultural systems provide an ideal environment for farmers and exporters from different regions to share ideas and discuss how they can look for better markets. This can improve both the farmers’ and exporters’ efficiency.

Key values of Digital Tools in Agriculture

As more farmers get connected to the internet, more mobile apps, software, and systems are being developed. They are designed to serve different purposes. Some key values of digital tools include:

Creating a central platform for farmers to collaborate

When farmers and exporters use a central platform, they can easily track the daily activities, the performance of the crops, share market information, and analyze the market trends for various crops. 

Simple communication between the farmers and exporters

Sharing important agricultural information and documents at different levels of production can help farmers devise better farm management practices. 

Advisory based on big data and data analysis

Real-time data helps farmers to track the performance of their crops. The introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning in agriculture has led to the introduction of sensors, drones, and robots to perform farm management tasks such as harvesting. Sensors, drones, and robots are connected to a system where they send the collected farm data for analysis. Sophisticated data analysis software is used to analyze real-time data and market trends.

Connecting farmers to potential customers

Marketing software and mobile apps can connect farmers to various customers looking for the same produce. Previously, markets for various crops were dominated by brokers who exploited farmers and bought the produce at low prices, especially macadamia nuts. With a large number of potential buyers at a central platform, farmers can sell their produce at the desire prices and get more profits

Tracking crop performance and productivity

Farm management practices are employed to determine the productivity of the crops. Not having an insight into what is required at different growth stages can ruin the entire fruit farming investment.

Farm management solutions provide farmers with full traceability of various agronomy practices that should be employed at different stages.

Having all information at a central platform can help farmers know the pests and diseases that can affect their crops, nutrients required at different growth stages, and how they can enhance their crop production and increase the yields.

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Top 5 sustainable farming and environmental-friendly practices

Large-scale agriculture has caused massive destruction to the environment. With the rising awareness of environmental harm, most farmers are shifting to eco-friendly practices. Intense carbon outputs, extensive pesticide use, and massive deforestation to create room for farming have fueled the negative impacts of climate change. This has forced policymakers to advocate for sustainable and environmental-friendly practices to overcome the adverse effects. Currently, the demands of fruits have been increasing in the local and export market. To promote green environments, fruit farming can be a good measure to counter climate change and environmental pollution. Some top sustainable and eco-friendly practices include:

Permaculture

This incorporates growing fruits and cover crops in a way similar to how plants grow in natural environments. It involves extensive application of smart farming to enhance production efficiency and minimize wastage of resources. Permaculture includes growing cover crops such as grain and vegetables without tillage, planting fruit seedlings such as grapevines and strawberry on raised beds, and creating swales to hold water. 

Aquaponics & Hydroponics

These are innovative farming practices that incorporate planting fruits and vegetables without any soil. Plants are provided with water-soluble nutrients that are carried by water. Hydroponics contain sophisticated systems, especially in commercial fruit and vegetable farming. Once they are dissolved in the water, mineral solutions are absorbed by the plants’ roots and taken up to all the tissues. For effectiveness, hydroponic systems are integrated with aquaponics systems. Fish produce waste which provides nutrients that are required to enhance plant growth. He plants purify the water which then gets back to the aquaponics systems and the cycle begins again. This farming technique is efficient when growing vegetables and fruits such as strawberry. The method is not efficient for woody plants such as avocado and citrus.

Using Renewable Energy Resources

Sustainable farming involves the application of eco-friendly sources of energy such as solar power, wind power, or hydropower. In drier regions such as Moyale, Kitui, and Mandera, irrigation has to be done during the dry season to keep the plants growing. Solar panels can be used for power-pumping and fertigation systems. Hydroelectric power can be used to run farm machinery. Utilizing natural sources of energy to run farm equipment can help cut down the orchard management costs.

Crop Rotation

Planting one crop at the same place for a long time increases the chances of vegetable and plant diseases. Crop rotation and crop diversification can be used to minimize the chances of diseases such as bacterial wilt and rust. This practice can reduce fertilizer and chemical use.

Fruit farming

Agroforestry is one of the most efficient ways of promoting sustainable farming. Sustainable agriculture incorporates the application of syntropic agroforestry, regenerative farming, and forest gardens. Fruit farming is one of the most profitable agribusinesses. With the increasing awareness of green environments, planting profitable trees is the best way to promote agroforestry. This is a win-win situation for both the farmer and the environment. Growing fruit trees reduces carbon levels and enhances biodiversity. To the farmer, fruit trees can be a good source of income, especially when done as an agribusiness.

Sustainable farming is a key factor in minimizing climate change. Sustainability should be ensured to promote environmental protection and at the same time increasing production capabilities. Grow crops passion and practice smart passion farming in well-managed agroforestry systems. Promote biodiversity and invest in fruit farming. For high-quality seedlings, contact Oxfarm Ag Ltd and kickstart your farming agribusiness.

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Why you are Failing as a Grape Farmer in Kenya

grape farmer

It’s quite disappointing when the rampantly growing grapevines produce many leaves and vines but do not produce fruits. The failure to bear grapes shows that either ineffective pest and disease control programs were employed or the orchard management practices are poor. Grapes flourish in integrated farming systems. Previously, grapes were produced organically and chemicals were not applied to control pests, diseases, and weeds but the vines produced overwhelming yields. Currently, commercial grape farmers use fertilizers and chemicals extensively for optimum performance.

Why you are Failing as a Grape Farmer

Grape farmers fail due to various reasons such as:

Poor pruning and less sunlight

Vines require constant pruning for optimum performance. The rate of pruning, however, varies depending on the variety. Mostly, lower branches barely produce fruitful vines and hence they should be trimmed. Non-productive vines should be pruned during the cold season to prevent them from shading and flowering during the sunny periods.Grapevines require adequate sunlight especially during flowering, fruit formation, and fruit ripening. Flower buds develop poorly when the sunlight is not sufficient.Exposure to sunlight determines the acidity and tannin structure of wine grapes. High intensity and density of solar rays enhance flavor profiles and color concentrations for wine grapes. When you venture into grape farming without considering the elevation of the garden, the plants perform poorly and produce poor-quality wine ad table grapes with low flavor profiles.

Soil and Fertilizer

Grape vines flourish in fertile, deep, and well-drained soils. Before venturing into grape farming, you should have your soil tested by the experts to determine the nutrients absent in the soil. Vines require constant manuring and balanced fertilizer application. The feeding program employed determines the production of the vines. Excessive application of Nitrogen-based fertilizers forces the vines to grow vigorously, producing more leaves and vines instead of flowers and fruits. In the end, the yields are relatively low than expected. Farmers should devise a fertilizer and manure application program to ensure that they only apply the required amounts of fertilizers.

Flowers and Pollination

grape vines

Although grapes contain male and female flowers on the same vine, pollinating agents such as wind and insects are required. Even when all factors such as environmental conditions and feeding are taken into consideration, the production of grapevines remains low when pollination is poor.  Bees are the most efficient agents of pollination in grape farming. Farmers are recommended to practice bee farming alongside the orchards to enhance pollination.

Pests and Diseases Affecting grape farming

Grapes are susceptible to pests and diseases just like other plants and they need to be eliminated. When pests and diseases are not controlled in time, the plants underperform and a large percentage of the fruits cannot get to the market. When you employ poor pest and disease control programs, it’s difficult to enjoy the profitability of the agribusiness.

Pests

Grapes are mainly attacked by pests such as grape mealybugs, aphids, black vine weevils, spider mites, and Japanese beetle.

Diseases

Grapes are sometimes affected by fungal and bacterial diseases such as:

Fungal

Fungal diseases that affect grapes include;

  • Anthracnose
  • Botrytis
  • Dieback
  • Powdery mildew
  • Armillaria root rot
  • Esca
  • Leaf spot
Bacterial

Bacterial diseases common in grape vineyards include;

  • Crown gall
  • Black rot

Re-building soil armor

Extensive use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides results in soil degradation. In dry seasons, herbicide and pesticide use should be done at a controlled rate.

Contact oxfarm for soil sampling and best agronomical advice.

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The macadamia industry recovering from COVID-19 epidemic

Macadamia

The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases are sparking anxiety about the collapsing food systems, negative economic growth, and failing healthcare systems globally. In The African continent, we are experiencing great uncertainty. Apart from coronavirus, the agriculture sector has been greatly hit by climate change and production has reduced significantly in various parts of the world. If strict measures are not enforced to mitigate the effect of the epidemic, the chances of having an imminent food crisis will be high. However, macadamia industry is recovering.

Macadamia Industry is Recovering

Last year, macadamia were selling at premium prices with a kilo going for up to Ksh 200. This year has been different. The epidemic has resulted to a sharp drop in the prices with brokers buying the nuts at Ksh 50 per kilo.

The reopening of economies in the US, China, and Europe has offered a glimpse of hope to the macadamia sub-sector.

According to Batian Nuts managing director, James Karanja, orders are beginning to come from the reopened hotels, restaurants, and airports. Previously, there was little production in the macadamia industry due to low demand and hence most processors were unable to buy nuts from farmers. Reopening of factories, food stores and travel channels means that the demand will increase hence processors will start buying nuts.

However, farmers should not expect good prices since factories would be cautious not to process large quantities until the coronavirus epidemic is in control. Few processors will be buying nuts full scale.

The epidemic has been an opportunity for middlemen to exploit farmers and buy the nuts at throw away prices. These middlemen anticipate selling them at premium prices when the macadamia industries are reopened. Charles Muigai, NutPAK executive officer, warned that there is a possibility those buying nuts in large quantities might end up making losses.

What are Africa’s solutions?

macadamia nuts

Short-term measures that can be taken to address the food security threat in the future include:

  • Making provision of agricultural inputs such as seedlings, agro-chemical, and fertilizers easier via smart input subsidies.
  • Implementing anti-hoarding policy
  • Imposing stricter measures on the exportation of raw nuts. This will prevent middlemen from exploiting farmers, buying their nuts at low prices.
  • Rapid scale up of technologies in the agriculture sector to boost production, minimize farming costs, and help farmers look for better markets.

Medium and long-term food security interventions such as;

  • Strengthening the resilience in food supply chain by promoting processing, value addition, and efficient production. In Kenya, we sell raw nuts instead of using them to add value to products and export finished products and in the process lose a more lucrative opportunity. In Asia and Europe, macadamia are extensively applied in food and beverages and personal care products. Making cosmetic products such as lotions, moisturizers, shampoos or food products like cakes, macadamia nut butter, breakfast cereals, or biscuits can be more profitable than exporting raw nuts.
  • Employing improved food quality and food safety after coronavirus.
  • Promoting digitalization in the agriculture sector and increase the employment of e-commerce to elevate the impact of coronavirus.

Despite the coronavirus epidemic, products made from macadamia nuts such as cosmetics and foods are still selling, locally and internationally. If we considered value addition, the impact of coronavirus could have lesser.

For macadamia seedlings contact Oxfarm.co.ke

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Commercial viability of different fruits in Kenya

fruits basket

Oxfarm Organic Ltd encourages sustainable diverse cropping systems where farmers plant more than one crop including fruits. This ensures spread of economic risk and offers the opportunity of reducing production costs and increasing profits. The more farmers’ successfully produce more of one type of crop, the more they are whipped by low prices making them a victim of their own success. That’s the greatest irony of farming as dictated by the laws of supply and demand, hence the need for diversified farm systems.

With such diversified systems, you require thorough planning and close monitoring to cater for the different components. For easy management we recommend 2-3 main crops and a set of rotational crops, for example, we have a farmer initiating a mixed fruit orchard in Nyeri doing hass avocado, tree tomato and apples.

A serious fruit farmer should also embrace an integrated pest management strategy and maintain the farm in ways that make them attractive to beneficial insects and pollinators such as bees, and implement interventions to protect them.

Note That: No pollination, no fruit.

Start with what you can manage as you progress. Farming is a journey, more of a marathon than a short sprint. It requires more resilience and focus on a desired farming venture.

Failure is inevitable, the love and passion of your venture will play an important role in such times.

Below are some of the fruit varieties that are commercially viable and worth giving a try.

Passion Fruits

passion fruits farming in Kenya

The two common varieties are; sweet yellow and purple passion. Both varieties do well locally and there is demand for both in the local market. The export market prefers purple passion; Europe is one of the main markets. In the past few years farmers from Rift valley have shifted to passion fruit cultivation without regret and we are seeing a lot of activities in Uasin gishu, Bomet, and Kericho.

Mango Fruits

There are different mango varieties that thrive in different parts of our country, but so far there is high demand for the Apple mango variety that thrives in hot areas. Other popular varieties include; Kent, Tommy and Haden. There is an emerging export market for Kenyan mangoes in China, hope this holds up.

Avocado

The hass variety is the most preferred for those targeting the export market due to its high oil content, appearance and low perishability. There is a niche market for Fuerte and Pinkerton variety locally; there high perishability does not make them good candidates for the export market.

Citrus

New citrus orchards are being developed in the coast, eastern and rift valley by farmers who are targeting to meet the local demand. Most of the citrus consumed locally are imported because the local supply does not meet the demand. There is need for improving production and quality of local citrus. The different varieties cultivated are: Pixie, Minneola, Clementine tangerine, lemon, Washington navel, Valencia among others.

Apples

In the near future high quality locally grown apples will be at the shelves in your grocery store. New apple fruits orchards are cropping up in different parts of the country targeting the local market. Different varieties have been tried and tested in different parts of the country and the results are promising. These varieties include; pink lady, green apple, Anna, Golden Dorset, Gala, Red delicious and Braeburn.

One year old Apple

Strawberry

So far chandler variety is the most successful varieties to cultivate. Most farmers are producing for the local market. We are trying out Quinault variety and some other giant strawberry varieties to see their viability.

Tree tomato

A good number of farmers have ventured in tree tomato fruits cultivation to meet local demand. Red Oratia is the most grown variety. One can choose to cultivate grafted tree tomato or the non-grafted ones.

Grapes

This is one of the fruits whose potential remains unexploited by the Kenyan farmer despite it doing well in various parts of the country. Most commercial grape ventures are established by wineries and geared towards wine production. Grape plants grown in the country are mostly grown by home gardeners for personal consumption. The local demand for table grapes and raisins heavily relies on imports.

Pears and plums

A good number of farmers in Molo, Limuru and some parts of Kiambu have cultivated pears and plums fruits that they supply to the local market. There are low chill pear varieties that do thrive in warm areas. The hood variety is a low chill variety that has been proven to do well in Kenya. We have sold few seedlings to various farmers in western Kenya and Nyanza to gauge their performance.

Bananas

This is the most important fruit crop in Kenya. Banana farming has been gaining momentum thanks to attractive market prices and availability of quality propagation material through tissue culture. There are different varieties that perform well in Kenya, study what the market wants and go bananas.

Kiwi

In Kenya So far there are no success story on kiwi cultivation, we are still in the infant stages. However, We can confidently say that the kiwi plant thrives in Kenya. The oldest plant we are monitoring is almost 3 years old and we are seeing some signs of fruiting. The greatest challenge in kiwi production is the propagation material. Most kiwi seedlings in the market are propagated from seed; this takes long to fruit around 4yrs.

There also other fruits which are mostly grown for personal consumption or on a smaller scale. They include Pomegranate, custard apple, star fruit, guava, loquats, peach, fig fruit, rasp berry, jack fruit, apricot and dragon fruit among others.

In case of any queries feel free to reach us,

You can always contact us on;

Cell no. 0706 222888

Phone no:0740 000044

Website; oxfarm.co.ke

Email; info@oxfarmorganic.co.ke

info@oxfarm.co.ke

Fruitful season ahead and remember to consume at least one fruit a day before any meal.

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Solutions for Overcoming Water Challenges

Water is a precious element that occupies more than 60% of the planet. However, there is only a limited amount of fresh water which is threatened by effects of climate change and human activities. Fresh water is mainly found in rivers, streams, wetlands, and lakes. Unfortunately, it only accounts to about 2.5% of all water on Earth, according to the UN.

In agriculture, water is an important resource that is required by plants throughout their growing period. In areas that do not receive adequate rainfall, irrigation is the only alternative. It can be done in different ways such as by sprinkling, using drip lines, or over-head irrigation. Crops have different water requirements and hence different methods can be used to apply water. The efficiency of irrigation methods varies depending with the crop.

Knowing the most efficient irrigation method and achieving uniform water application is one of the greatest challenges to most fruit farmers. For instance, overhead irrigation can be efficient in apple and avocado farming and not in strawberry and grape farming. The soil type and drainage, crop, elevation of the land, field size and weather conditions determine the efficiency of an irrigation system.

Key water challenges

As the global population increases, the demand for fresh water and food increases. This means that more land will be converted for agricultural activities to sustain the growing population. In the next 2 decades, the demand for fresh water will have increased by 30%.

What are some key water challenges that are currently being experienced?

  • Water pollution especially in towns which contributes to a decrease in safe water for farming and sanitation services.
  • Climate change
  • Water-related natural calamities such as drought and floods
  • Increased food production which has resulted to an increase in the amount of water withdrawn from water sources for irrigation.  

The solution to water challenges

Fresh water is an important resource that is required by the entire natural ecosystems. It, therefore, needs to be preserved and protected all the time. Some of the solutions that can be employed to solve water challenges include:

  • Practicing agroforestry – fruit farming is one of the solutions to climate change. Apart from enhancing greener environments, they can also be a good source of income.
  • Restoring natural wetlands and grasslands
  • Practicing sustainable water use in agriculture. This can be done by using drip and sprinkler irrigation methods.
  • Reconnecting rivers to flood plains

How sustainable farmers respond to water challenges

Agriculture is considered the main consumer of fresh water, contributing to 70 percent of water withdrawals. Irrigation is an important component that enhances crop production. However, unsustainable farming practices such as extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides will lead to water contamination.

As a response to these challenges, fruit farmers should consider sustainable practices and nature-based solutions like:

  • Using efficient irrigation methods such as drips and only practice irrigation when necessary.
  • Harvest rain water for irrigation
  • Minimize water pollution by applying fertilizers and pesticides wisely

Why farmers should consider using drip irrigation

Drip lines can be used for irrigation and fertigation (application of pesticides and water-soluble nutrients). These days, fruit farmers are extensively using drip irrigation in their farms. By doing so, farmers are:

  • Preventing soil erosion and maintaining soil productivity
  • Reducing pesticide, fertilizer, and water use
  • Reducing irrigation and farming costs
  • Increasing yield quantity and quality

It is the role of every farmer to promote water conservation. We encourage farmers to embrace technological advancements to make fruit farming more profitable by cutting farming costs and minimizing water loss. Drip irrigation is the most efficient irrigation method in passion, strawberry, and grape orchards.

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Value addition of Macadamia Nuts and Why we should embrace it

Macadamia nuts

The consumption of macadamia nuts in Asia, America, and Europe is positive and the demand has been increasing constantly. This has been fuelled by the increasing interest in healthy eating. Macadamia nuts are a source of vitamins, fibre, minerals, protein, and unsaturated fats. They are considered to be rich in iron, vitamin A, niacin, folates, thiamine and riboflavin. Raw macadamia nuts are not produced in Europe and hence most countries are forced to import.

Why we should sell value-added products

Value added products cost higher than raw macadamia nuts. For instance, importers buy raw nuts importers buy raw nuts and use them to add value chocolate and then export the macadamia-chocolate at a higher price. This way, they earn more money than the raw nuts they imported from Kenya. Farmers should aim at forming groups and coming up with processors whereby they can process their nuts to add value to other products and export value added products. This way they can manage to fetch more money than when they sell raw nuts. Currently, there are more than 27 certified and licensed processors who buy the nuts from farmers directly.

Consumption

The consumption of nuts in Europe, Asia and America is increasing at a rate of 19percent. Previously, the demand for macadamia was lower due to low harvest of macadamia nuts in various parts of the country which resulted to a decrease in consumption.

In Europe, Germany is largest consumer of macadamia, which consumed 1870 tonnes and a consumption of 116 grams of nuts per capita in 2016. Luxembourg was the largest consumer of macadamia nuts per capita due to its processing facilities consuming 1.4 kg per capita. Other major consumers of macadamia nuts in Europe are Spain, Italy, and United Kingdom. In Asia, China and Japan are the largest consumers of macadamia nuts products.

In Europe, the consumption of macadamia nuts is seasonal reaching a peak in winter months, and the consumption reduces towards the summer.

Value addition of macadamia nuts

The consumer demand of gluten-free, natural, and vegan food, especially in Europe and Asia creates opportunities for exporters in Kenya. Farmers have a guaranteed market for their produce hence they can venture into macadamia farming with confidence. However, exported produce should meet all the requirements for the international market, be free from pests, and adhere to corporate standards.

In Kenya, instead of adding value locally and exporting finished products, we sell raw macadamia losing a big opportunity. The global macadamia nuts market has expanded especially after the application of the nuts in personal care, food & beverage, and others. The food & beverage sector accounts for the largest share in the global nuts market due to the extensive use of nuts in culinary segments, dairy and frozen desserts, bakery, and confectionery. These days, macadamia are used to add value to breakfast biscuits, chocolate products, breakfast cereals, macadamia nut butter, cakes, and breakfast biscuits. There is also widespread use of macadamia oil in personal care and cosmetic products such as shampoos, lotions, and moisturizers due to high palmitoleic acid and natural antioxidant properties. 

Macadamia nuts enjoy a good reputation in among Asian and European consumers. The consumption of nuts is expected to increase in the cosmetic and snack segment. In European countries, macadamia are regarded as a healthy alternative of junk food such as extruded snacks and crisps and healthier than peanuts.

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When should you plant plantain Bananas?

Currently, plantain farming is one of the most lucrative ventures in agriculture. Unfortunately, most farmers lack the necessary knowledge needed to start a plantain plantation and hence miss out on the profitability of agri-business. Plantains have fruits similar to bananas, but unlike bananas, the fruits remain green and don’t turn yellow when they ripen. Plantain fruits are mainly boiled, steamed, or fried although they are also eaten raw. With high demand, they can be a good source of revenue even to local farmers.

Climatic factors

Plantain is sensitive to temperatures and hence cannot thrive in areas that are extremely cold or too hot. The tropical climate is ideal for plantain, especially in areas where temperatures are between 200C to 300C. The optimum temperature for plantain farming is 270C . These bananas cannot survive in temperatures below 140C. At low temperatures, the leaves and the fruit turns yellow and eventually the plant dies. The bright sun, warm temperatures, and adequate rainfall create an optimum environment for plantain farming.

They require adequate rainfall although they can be put under irrigation. If they have enough water, they can handle extreme temperatures and cool weather. However, in extreme temperatures, they do not thrive.

A pH of between 5.5 and 7.0 is the best for plantain farming.

In Kenya, plantain farming can thrive in most parts of the country especially places such as Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Nyeri, Kisii, Muranga, Embu, Nyamira, and Kirinyaga.

Time to Plant Plantain Bananas

Plantain suckers can be planted after land preparation. The land should be prepared before the rainy season and the suckers planted during the rainy season. During the first 3 to 4 months after planting, the plants should be well watered to ensure vigorous vegetative growth. This means that they should not be planted in the last month of the rainy season. This means that they can either be planted between March and April or between October and November.

However, fetch good returns, farmers can also plant during the dry season and put the plants under irrigation. Most farmers plant immediately when the rains start and flood the market when the plantains mature which causes the prices to be very low. Planting during the dry season or in the middle of the rainy season puts farmers in a better proposition since they will harvest they plantain off-season and hence get high prices.

Weeding and fertilizer application

Weeds can compete for nutrients with plantain plants slowing down their growth. Constant weeding is hence important. Chemical weed control is, however, not recommended.

The application of fertilizers will be based on soil fertility. To know the soil fertility, a soil test is recommended before planting. If the application of fertilizers is necessary, it should be applied in the right proportions. Manure should be added regularly to improve soil fertility. Mulching should also be applied since it not also minimizes water loss through evaporation but also improves the soil fertility when the mulch decomposes.

Maturity and Harvesting

Plantain fruits take between 8 to 10 months to mature and be ready for harvest. Harvesting is done when the plants begin to ripen. A bunch ripens within one week. The plant produces more fruits throughout the entire season. The fruits should be harvested carefully so as not to hurt the fruits.

Marketing

The profitability depends on how they are maintained. The demand for plantain has been increasing over the years and there is always a ready market for the fruits. In Kenya, the consumption of plantain fruits is high. Farmers can either sell the fruits in the local market, to companies that process plantain into flour or export to the international market. In East Africa, South Africa, and Asia, the market for plantain is large and is increasing over the years.

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Pear farming: A lucrative venture that you should invest in

Provided that proper farming methods are applied, commercial pear farming can be a lucrative business. Various cultivars can be grown in different regions depending on their adaptability. They perform well in a wide range of soils and are tolerant to drought and wet soils. However, they cannot tolerate flooding since it damages their root system.

Climatic Conditions

Most pear varieties thrive in cool regions when temperatures do not exceed 320C. Pears require abundant exposure to sunlight for maximum fruit production. Sufficient sunlight also enhances the color of the fruits. Pears require adequate rainfall, although they can be put under irrigation especially in dry areas. In warm and dry regions, commercial pear farming requires regular fertilization, irrigation, and continuous optimization of pollination. A cold season (chilling) is necessary to break dormancy and to enhance fruit bud development. Lack of chilling slows down leaf formation and causes poor fruit set. However, different varieties require different chilling requirements. In the tropics, especially in Kenya, farmers should consider growing varieties with a low chilling effect. Due to the cold season that dominates the area, Limuru is ideal for pear farming. 

Soil requirements

Pears are not selective when it comes to soil requirements. They can be grown in different soils ranging from loamy, clay loamy or sandy soils. The plants thrive in soils that are either light sandy or loamy. However, they are sensitive to pH and require a soil pH of below 8.5. Alkaline soils above this are not suitable for pear farming. High soil pH of above 8.5 seems to cause zinc deficiencies and iron chlorosis in plants.

Pear plants require Potassium and Nitrogen for normal leaf growth, flowering and fruit set, and Phosphorus for the development of a strong root system, especially when the plants are still young. They also require Magnesium, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, and Calcium for bud development, flowering, and fruition. Nutrient deficiency negatively affects fruit quality, number, and general tree health. If any of the nutrients is not available in the soil, it can be supplemented by applying fertilizers.

Pests and diseases that affect pear farming

Just like other fruits, pears are also attacked by pests such as aphids, beetles, leafhoppers, spider mites, and moths. When these pests attack the tree or the fruits, they feed on the plant causing damage to the leaves and fruits. They cause curling and yellowing of leaves, holes or spots to the fruits, and flower and fruit drop in severe cases.

They are also susceptible to a number of fungal and bacterial diseases. For instance, they are prone to powdery mildew, a fungal disease that attacks the leaves, flowers, and fruits, causing leaf and fruit discoloration and distortion. If not controlled, the infected tree becomes weak and unproductive. They are also prone to fire blight, a bacterial disease that attacks the shoots and branches, especially of young plants, and makes them appear like they are burned.

Other diseases that are collar rot, crown rot, and root rot.

Market prices for Kenya pears

Prices for Kenyan pears fluctuate depending on the market. For instance, one kilo of pears was going for KES 26 in 2018 and KES 30 in 2019. Fresh pears exported to Rwanda, Belarus, Bahrain, and Somalia have the highest prices per kilo. In the local market, one pear goes for Ksh 10 but can rise up to Ksh 15 depending on the season. When proper farming techniques are employed, a tree can produce 180kgs in a season. This means a farmer with 200 trees will harvest 36000kgs of pear fruit in one season. When a kilogram is going for KES 30, a farmer can make 1,080,000 in one season.  Pear fruits require little maintenance and hence most of the revenue generated is profit. Isn’t that a lucrative venture?

You can also look for what the government is doing for avocado farmers.