Kenya has a tropical climate which is perfect for growing passion fruits thus making passion fruit farming relatively easy and lucrative.
The plant is hardy, tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and climates, and drought resistant making it an ideal agricultural crop for developing countries with unstable environments.
Passion fruit farming in Kenya has been proven to be profitable with the average annual income being around Ksh 200,000 per acre.
In this blog post, we will explore the many benefits of growing passion fruit in Kenya as well as how to get started.
Benefits of growing passion fruits
- Passion fruits are succulent fruits that have many health benefits. They have the ability to lower blood pressure and increase bone density, among other things.
- They can be grown in cold climates like Limuru because of their hardy nature!
- The plants grow well even on steep hillsides so you don’t need to worry about it being too much of a hassle.
- They also have an amazing flavor and can be used to make juice, jams and candies.
- It is a sustainable, organic fruit that can be grown on small plots of land.
- Passion fruits are filled with nutrients which make them excellent for people who want to live healthier lifestyles as they have antioxidant properties.
Conditions for growing passion fruits
- Passion fruit is a tropical plant, so it needs to be grown in warm climates. The regions where the climate allows for this type of farming are Nyanza Province and Eastern Province.
- They grow best in moist soils that have a PH range of between five and eight.
- They require full sun in the morning and a shade in the afternoon from about 12:00 to 18:00 hours daily.
- The best temperature for its growth is about 18-27°C (65-80 °F).
- The plant is intolerant of frost, but can withstand a light frost if it’s not prolonged.
- Passion fruits can’t grow in places that have a lot of wind.
Steps for planting passion fruits in Kenya
- Start by performing a soil test to ensure that it is within the preferred PH range and to check which nutrients are lacking in it.
- Plough the land two months before planting to ensure that all the weeds have dried up
- Dig holes at a spacing of 60cm x 60cm.
- Apply manure or compost at a rate of about 22.68 kg per acre before planting. Apply only when the soil is moist enough in such a way that if you form a ball with it, it will maintain the shape.
- When planting apply 130g DAP fertilizer in each hole.
- Place the passion fruit vine in the hole with a 45 degree angle upwards and cover it up with soil.
- Pour water to ensure that there is no dryness around the roots of your seedling and then mulch them for protection from weeds while they grow.
- After two weeks of planting top dress by applying 130g of CAN fertilizer in each plant.
- Regularly weed to ensure they don’t compete for nutrients with the crop.
- Support them by tying them to a tree or stake when they grow.
- Prune them by removing the flower clusters of passion fruit as soon as they appear, this will ensure that there is more room for fruits which are harvested.
Passion fruits take about four to six months to mature.
Harvesting of Passion fruits
Harvesting of passion fruits is done when the fruits are ripe.
The fruits are harvested by cutting them off from the stem with a knife or sharp shears. Once they have been harvested, they must be placed in a cool place to produce the best quality fruit.
The market for passion fruits is all year long, but the peak season begins in April and ends in October when prices can be as high as Ksh 35,000 to 40,000 a box (15 kg). The average price is around 20,000 per box.
Passion fruit pests and diseases
Passion fruit, like most other crops, can be afflicted by pests and diseases.
Insects that attack the plant come in all shapes and sizes: from beetles, caterpillars (larvae), thrips to bugs such as aphids. These insects cause damage by sucking on sap or chewing the leaves of plants.
To control the infestation of these insects, farmers should do the following:
- Perform pre-season pruning.
- Weed and apply mulch regularly.
- Avoid over fertilization or overuse of nitrogenous fertilizer.
- Exclude pests from fields by planting hedges around the farm.
- Introduce natural predators like ladybugs to feast on the insects.
Companies buying passion fruits in Kenya
The demand for passion fruit in Kenya is growing with an increasing number of companies buying the fruits.
Kenyan farmers are benefiting from this as they are able to sell their produce at a higher price and obtain more profit than if they were selling in local markets.
Most of the companies that buy Passion fruits in Kenya are juice processing firms such as;
- Kevian Limited.
- Delmonte Juice Limited.
- Orchard Limited.
- Jetlak foods.
- Premium foods industries.
- Frank fresh juice.
- Fresh squeeze limited
Passion fruit earnings in Kenya
Passion fruits are the most profitable of all fruits due to its sweet tart flavor and high demand.This makes a them a very good investment when starting up your own farm.
The average price of passion fruit in Kenya is around Ksh 60 per kilogram (Kg). Its price has been steadily increasing for the last few years, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Kenya’s passion fruit yield per acre is the highest in Africa. The average yield a farmer can harvest from an acre of Passion fruits is approximately 3,000 kilos. This is about Ksh 180,000 worth of produce.
Exporting of passion fruits in Kenya
Kenya is the top producer of passion fruits in Africa. It exported a total of $14 million worth of fruits last year according to the Ministry of Agriculture statistics.
The main export market is Europe and Asia, but there are some other markets such as UAE, Saudi Arabia as well as South Africa, thus making it possible for Kenyan farmers to profit from their crops .
Challenges of passion fruit farming in Kenya
Kenyan passion fruit farmers face a number of challenges. Some of these are;
- Lack of quality Passion fruit seeds-Poor quality seeds that lead to poor quality fruits.
- Lack of post-harvest equipment-Passion fruit farmers in Kenya lack the post-harvest equipment that is needed to produce a quality product.
- Poor management practices– Poor farming practices lead to poor yields, and thus low profits for small scale passion fruit farmers.
- Climate change-Another challenge that comes with the farming of this crop is climate change which causes extreme changes in weather patterns, irregular rainfall and high temperatures during dry seasons.
- Passion fruit pests-The most serious pest is the white fly. The life cycle of this insect takes place in two stages, the larval and adult stage. In Kenya, female flies are more abundant than males because they can lay eggs without mating with a male. Whiteflies suck juices from the leaves and fruit of the passion fruits, which can cause stunted growth.
- Passion Fruit Diseases-Farmers have to contend with diseases such as black sigatoka which is making it difficult for them to grow their crops profitably on low input farms.Another problem for Kenyan farmers is the disease called “fusarium wilt” or stem rot in plants. This fungus affects all parts of the plant – roots, stems, and leaves.
- Weather-Weather is a factor in how profitable passion fruit farming can be because it determines the length of time between fruiting periods and changes in volume due to rain or drought conditions. Drought may cause fruits to ripen prematurely, before they are ready for harvest, which can cause lower yields.
Passion fruit farming in Kenya is a great business opportunity for people who are interested in agriculture, and has the potential to grow into an industry that provides income for many as it is profitable venture.
With proper training and guidance from agricultural specialists or professionals, passion fruit farmers can harvest more abundant fruits.