When Ernest Lang’at, a resident of Kaptebeswet farm in Kericho County heard that there was high demand for passion fruits in the local and international markets, he knew he wanted to venture into it.
He says the fruit is in high demand because of changes in customer preferences and tastes as more consumers now prefer juice to eating the fruit.
“I started the project January 2016 and it has performed better than I expected.” Lang’at told the Star.
He adds that the project was started in a small piece of land but due to the good response in the market he has made good profit and he has expanded the project to three acres within a short span of time.
Lang’at adds that many people in his region have not ventured in this kind of farming because they have a notion that it is waste of capital investing in passion fruit farming since there is little profit to be realised from its sales.
A large number of farmers in this region prefer tea planting which is its main cash crop.
“I used to sell the fruits to locals who came to my home, but only got Sh100 at most. Many fruits were destroyed by birds after over ripening and falling to the ground.”
Luckily his friend introduced him to a company, Emerald Company Limited in Nairobi which purchases ripe fruits direct from farmers and exports to Uganda, Belgium and Finland.
He harvests up to 1,000 kilogrammes of the fruit in a good week, selling one kilo at Sh100.
“Weekly, I can get an income of up to Sh100,000 and monthly I project earnings of at least Sh400,000. This can easily transalte to Sh4.8 million or thereabout annually,” he said.
Lang’at says he chose the purple granadilla variety because they do much better in the area and mature faster and are also resistant to many diseases.
Although fruit farming is relatively new in the area, the farmer has observed some benefits, such as providing jobs for many locals both directly and indirectly who are employed to pick, grade and package the fruits. He has also been able to work from home as he does other businesses. Mostly, he says, he prides himself in what he does because his money did not go to waste.
However, the farming venture has not been without challenges including battling a myriad fungal diseases such as Die Back, Furasium Wilt, woodiness virus, scab, root and crown rot and collar rot.
Experts advise farmers from time to time.
“We target Sh10 million and plan to export the fruits directly to international markets without involving a go-between,” he said.
He is also planning to experiment on tea, saying he will plant orthodox tea farming for export as part of his future plans for expansion.