Growth in diversification and value addition in apple farming

Growth in diversification and value addition in apple farming

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apple farming is a lucrative agribusiness that is gaining popularity in Kenya. This is due to its increasing demand, many health benefits, limited local supply, and competitive prices in the local and export markets. Currently, we are forced to import apples from South Africa and the Middle East to sustain the local demand. To diversify their sources of income, farmers should consider filling the market gap and venture into apple farming. In Kenya, the fruit is grown in highland regions such as Mt Elgon, Nandi, Kitale, and most parts of central province such as Kiambu and Nyeri. Here are a few tips that can help you start apple farming.

Purchase High quality seedlings

The quality of the seedlings is the first thing that determines how your plants will perform. With many roadside sellers, it’s easy to purchase low-quality seedlings that will ruin your entire fruit farming investment. You should ensure that you are buying your seedlings from certified nurseries. At OxfarmAg, each certified apple seedling costs about Kshs. 350.

Understand the ecological requirements

The orchard should be established in an area with deep, fertile, and well-drained soils with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Apples flourish in high-altitude regions ranging from 1800 to 2800m and with moderate rainfall. However, they can also be grown under irrigation in drier areas. Besides, they require moderate temperatures. Always ensure that you plant varieties with low chilling requirements.

Apply proper management skills

Every farmer should use proper management practices to keep their plants healthy and flourishing. Apple plants require adequate moisture, a balanced application of nutrients, and timely pest and disease control. In drier areas, they should be irrigated regularly. Manure and fertilizers should also be applied to provide the trees with the necessary nutrients. A thick organic mulch should be used to minimize water loss and weed growth. Apples are attacked by pests such as fruit flies, aphids, thrips, and spider mites. They are susceptible to diseases such as Armiralia root rot, powdery mildew, and apple scab.

Productivity of apples

Under proper care, apple plants can be highly productive, producing an average of 500 fruits per growing season. On average, if appropriately managed, you can harvest between 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare.

Market and Value addition

Apples have a high demand in both the local and export markets. Locally, you can target supermarkets, open-air markets, juice makers, and food processing companies. To make more profits and minimize post-harvest losses, farmers should consider investing in value addition. Apart from fresh consumption, apples are used to make juices, cookies, biscuits and bread, jellies, jams, soft drinks, sauce, baby foods, and apple cereal flakes. Besides, they can be used to make pectin, ethanol, vinegar, cider, animal feeds, and produce industrial pigments such as carotenoids. They are also essential ingredients in fruit salad and desserts, such as apple crisp, apple pie, and apple crumble.

To penetrate the market, you should ensure that your fruits are high quality and focus on primary and secondary processing.

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