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.
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
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.
Most diseases affecting grapes are fungal. They include:
- Anthracnose (Bird’s eye rot) – can be controlled by planting less susceptible cultivars.
- Armillaria root rot – can be controlled through fumigation, especially in soils suspected to have carried the disease.
- 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.
- Dieback – Chemical control can be used to control the disease.
- Powdery mildew – Good air circulation should be ensured to prevent the spreading of the disease. Copper-based fungicides can also be used.
- Leaf spot – Appropriate fungicides can be used. Pune the infected parts and plant pathogen-free plants.
- Esca – Remove the infected parts plants immediately they are detected.
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:
- Black rot – Can be controlled using fungicides.
- 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.