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Why farmers should invest in grapes

grape farmer

In case you have purchased grapes from a fruit vendor recently, you must have bought a packet between KES 250 and KES 300. Both in supermarkets and fruit stores, that’s the average price range. Grape farming is a lucrative venture that is yet to be tapped. With an agricultural land located in a place with an ideal climate, topography, and soils that favors grape farming, farmers can also make it into English wine.

Why farmers should invest in grapes

There various reasons why farmers should invest in grape farming. This includes;

It’s a growing industry

English wine production has been increasing steadily over the years. With accreditation from wine experts, journalists, and international wine competitions, a spotlight is shining on Kenyan grapes. In the UK, the wine industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the agricultural sector that is aiming to reach an output of 10 million bottles by this year and 40 million bottles in the next two decades. This means that more than 2 million vines should be planted to help meet this goal. Why not become part of the boom?

Higher prices than other sectors

Previously, the majority of farmers engaged in subsistence farming growing crops such as maize and beans, and cash crop farming such as coffee and tea. Unfortunately, the prices of these products have fallen to the extent that farmers can barely make any profits. For instance, a kilo of coffee has been retailing at KES 55 and KES 20 for maize. Farmers have therefore been looking for other streams of income to keep farms sustainable and barely generating significant revenue from their crops. Grape farming is a lucrative venture that can give farmers high returns especially when proper farming methods have been put in place. Compared to other crops, the prices of grapes are quite high considering that a kilo of grapes can go for even up to KES 300.

Rising Demand

The demand for grapes has been increasing rapidly over the years due to its use in wines and food processing industries. Grapes can either consumed fresh or processed into different forms like jellies, jam, raisins, juices, and wine. Wine is the most expensive grape product.

The increase in demand for wine and the increase in the number of wine processors have fuelled the rise in demand for grapes. Worldwide, the wine market is expected to reach USD 415 billion by 2024. The largest importers of grapes in the world are Europe especially the United Kingdom and the United States. The demand in the international market is high and is yet to be met.

Pest and Diseases affecting grape farming

Pests

Grapes are attacked by sucking insects such as aphids, spider mites, black vine weevils, grape mealybugs, and Japanese beetle. These pests can be controlled by registered pesticides although chemical control is rarely needed. Neem oil and insecticidal soaps can also be used to control insects.

Diseases

Fungal

Most diseases affecting grapes are fungal. They include:

  1. Anthracnose (Bird’s eye rot) – can be controlled by planting less susceptible cultivars.
  2. Armillaria root rot – can be controlled through fumigation, especially in soils suspected to have carried the disease.
  3. Botrytis – can be controlled by planting less susceptible cultivars, avoiding over-fertilizing, and reduce excessive vegetative growth. In severe cases, chemical control can be employed.
  4. Dieback – Chemical control can be used to control the disease.
  5. Powdery mildew – Good air circulation should be ensured to prevent the spreading of the disease. Copper-based fungicides can also be used.
  6. Leaf spot – Appropriate fungicides can be used. Pune the infected parts and plant pathogen-free plants.
  7. Esca – Remove the infected parts plants immediately they are detected.

Bacterial

These diseases are also common and can be devastating since they spread from vine to vine especially where vines are planted in an orchard situation. They include:

  1. Black rot – Can be controlled using fungicides.
  2. Crown gall – Can be prevented by planting disease-free stock and avoid injuring the plants. It can also be controlled by solarisation and soil fumigation. 

Market for Grapes

The demand for locally grown grapes is yet to be met both for wine and table purposes. About 99% of table grapes are mainly imported from Egypt and South Africa. These countries have many hectares under grapevines because of their established wine production. Kenya has an ideal environment for growing and producing grapes locally. Farmers should consider venturing this industry as the demand for grapes in the local and international markets is increasing. In Kenya, there are only two commercial wineries that produce wine with one of them importing fresh grapes since we are unable to produce enough grapes to meet their demand. The demand is also high in jam and juice makers.It is evident therefore that the demand is very high while the supply of grapes is almost insignificant and it’s the high time farmers start filling this gap. Currently, there is little competition among farmers since there is only a small number growing the crop.

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Establishing a tree fruit orchard in Kenya

Establishing an orchard for your tree fruits

Where to plant your fruit trees is an important consideration when starting your orchard. Ideally you want good drainage, good soil, plenty of sunshine (fruiting trees require a minimum of 6-8 hours of sun per day during the growing season), and good air flow. You want your trees to be wind protected and try to avoid low-lying sites. A slope is the best location, if you have one. Fertile soils with a depth of  more than 1.5 meters and pH range of 5.8–6.6 are ideal for growing fruit trees.

Dig large holes before planting fruit trees. The tree holes need to be large enough to accommodate the root system, a 2 feet diameter is a good measurement. Mix well with the existing soil and good quality compost. Mulching and composting are an important part of the orchard.

The proposed orchard’s site has to be cleared as thoroughly as possible of perennial weeds, undergrowth, trees, stumps, roots, trash and debris. This should be followed by levelling of unwanted anthills and the elimination of their destructive inhabitants. To achieve a good tilth of the cleared land, fruit growers are advised to plant an annual crop a year before starting fruit cultivation. After this annual crop has been harvested, the final re-ploughing, harrowing and levelling is carried out.

 

Selection of suitable fruit species/cultivars

The choice of suitable fruit species and cultivars to grow is one of the most important prerequisites for successful fruit farming. A cultivar must be adapted to the environmental conditions of the locality in which it is to be grown, and there should be a good market demand for it. For many fruits there is an extended list from which to choose.

  • Mangoes (Kent, Tommy, Ngowe and apple varieties) @150
    Hass avocados/fuerte @150
    Oranges @150
    Muthakwa grafted tree tomatoes @100
    Apples @400
    Lime @150
    Lemons@100
    Tangerines @150
    Macadamia @400
    Grafted purple passion fruits @70
    Aplicot @300
    Pepino melons @100
    Tissue culture bananas @250
    Guavas @100
    Plums @400
    Peaches @300
    Pomegranates @300
    kiwi @800
    Pawpaw @50
    Grapes @250