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Regaining Kenya’s passion fruit farming

Kenya exported passion fruits in the 90s and early 2000 but since 2003, decline in production started because of pest management challenges.

Despite Kenya’s potential to grow and export passion fruits, production of the highly profitable crop has been on the decline over the past decade with no imports going into the European Union.

The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya Chairman Apollo Owuor told a gathering of farmers, buyers and development partners at a conference titled Making Kenya the Global Leader in Passion Fruit Production and Marketing held in Eldoret last month, Kenya produced and exported the fruits in the 90s and early 2000 but since 2003, decline in production started because of pest management challenges.

The European market has strict guidelines on pesticides residues and passion was reported to contain above allowable limits.

He added there has not been efforts to revive the industry partly because passion is listed by the Ministry of Agriculture as a minor horticultural crop therefore not in government policy for priority. The Agriculture Food Authority Horticulture Directorate head Zakayo Magara admitted passion fruit is listed under 100 other minor crops.

Following the day-long deliberations, the Council of Governors Agriculture Committee, represented by Anne Koech, County Executive Committee Member in charge of Agriculture, Kericho, made a commitment to propose and support the upgrading of the crop to a major so that funds can be allocated to development of passion in counties earmarked as suitable to grow it. She said the county governments would subsidise purchasing of seedlings to improve production and create market linkages to streamline marketing among in Western region, considered as a high potential passion fruit production zone.

According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that funded the conference through the Kenya Agriculture Value Chains Enterprises (Kaves), Passion fruits can grow anywhere in Kenya due to availability of varieties for warmer and colder parts of the country. “We have yellow passion for the lower, warmer regions and the more common purple variety for the higher cooler parts,” said Dr Steve New, Kaves Chief of Party.

He added there is potential for Kenya to be a world leader in tropical juice production due to year-round availability of tropical fruits – passion, mango and pineapple, as the only country in the world that can grow the crops continuously.

Related Post: How to improve your fruit harvest

Passion fruit is the most profitable in comparison with other crops, according to the Passion Fruit Value Chain Study undertaken in 2015 by Dr Hezekiah Agwara which indicates a farmer can make good income from a small parcel of land measuring 0.3- 0.6 of an acre. Dr New describes this as “poverty level minimum” that can sustain a livelihood. He added nothing goes to waste from a passion fruit plant. “Minimal wastage in passion fruit production because there is a huge domestic market. Passion is also used by processors for juice while neighbouring Uganda is a big market for Kenya passion fruits taking 50 per cent of total production. South Sudan is also buying lots of passion from Kenya.

Dr New stresses that passion fruit is best produced by smallholders due the attention it requires for maximum productivity. At spraying the plant will be at different stages of pest control making it hard for largescale management. On one vine you can have a flower, a young and mature fruit at the same time. The disease and pest control for each is different and non should affect the other, especially the ready to harvest fruit which shouldn’t have traces of chemicals. Managing this balance it not easy, he said.

According to Eric Ogumo, UK retail giant, Tescos, manager for Africa, passion fruit is the most sought after in their shelves in Europe, retailing at Ksh 2,000 a kilo. “Buyers always ask for Kenya fruits but there are none. “We are here to buy your fruits”, he told an attentive gathering. Mr Ogumo said they are buying from Southern Africa countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. “There is a ready market if we can get your fruits”, he said adding that Kenya is not benefiting from newest varieties because the country is not exporting. “There are newer, better yielding, pest and diseases resistant varieties for export but they are not being grown here.” Mr Ogumo said.

The biggest challenge of meeting pesticides residue limits is caused by there being only one registered product. The Agriculture Committee of the Council of Governors has committed to bring agrochemical firms together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Pest Control Products Board to discuss extension of labels to include passion fruits in pest control products available in the country to give farmers options.

Biological control products firms have also not conducted research on the passion due to its minor crop status.


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Kenyan mangoes have a ripe market in Japan

As the mango harvesting season approaches, farmers should be looking at export prospects as a way of making better earnings than they have been by selling them locally.Ministry of Agriculture officer Samuel Mburu says the surplus production of mango fruits during peak season of December-March has often been linked with losses on the part of farmers, who fail to select their markets well.

Farmers and vendors often sell their produce at throw-away prices for fear of losses, occasioned by the perishable nature of the fruit, yet they can chop them up and dry them for export.

Mangoes, which on average cost about KSh30, can shed off their price by up to a third to retail at KSh10 in local market, like Nairobi’s Wakulima and Gikomba.

A kilogramme of dry mangoes can fetch between Ksh650-KSh700 in export, according to Mburu. It requires about 6Kg (or  7-10 pieces) of fresh mangoes to make 1kg of dry chips.

“Japan and China are ready markets for dried mango chips. In fact, this market is stable all year round and can ensure regular earnings for farmers,” he said.

East African Growers and Keitt Exporter Ltd, among other companies, buy, package and exports this fruit and many more others on behalf of farmers.


Off-season production (June–August), can let farmers enjoy high local prices because the markets are usually not saturated around this time.

“But export produce must be of high quality,” Mburu, who is based in Machakos County told Farmbiz Africa.

Mr. Mburu advises farmers to select the pesticides they use wisely and also ensure that their produce are protected from diseases.

“Farmers lose between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of their produce to pesticides and diseases. Even if not all fruits are affected directly, quality is not guaranteed.”

“Quality produce starts with growing clean planting materials, and proper pest and disease control,” he said.

To look out for

Anthraxnose is one of the most common diseases that affect mangoes, and Mburu recommends planting of less susceptible varieties such as Tommy Atkins, Madoe, Keitt, Vandyke, Matthias, Sabine and Sabre.

Cutting and properly disposing affected parts of the plant can save on a great deal besides regular pesticide spraying.

For Mango management practices and seedlings contact us