Blueberry farming in Kenya: The New Gold in Agribusiness

Blueberry farming in Kenya is a highly profitable and sustainable venture, most probably owing to the fact that it is a new kind of farming in the country. The fruit is known for its high nutrient content and antioxidant properties, making it a popular choice among health-conscious consumers. The demand for these berries has been higher than supply and it keeps growing as more people become aware of it.

Blueberry farming in Kenya, Kakuzi


The blueberry consumers in Kenya have previously been buying imported blueberries from America and Europe. However, thanks to Kakuzi, the first blueberry grower in Kenya, farmers have now discovered that this expensive fruit can grow very well in Kenya and are going into it.  Today, we will teach you how to grow your own blueberries and get a piece of its high profit market.

Ecological Requirements

To grow blueberries successfully, farmers must pay attention to the soil, climatic conditions and water requirements of the crop.

Soil

Blueberries require well-drained acidic soil with a pH of between 4.5 and 5.5. Of course, you have to do your soil test to ensure that all other soil components such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium are within adequate levels for healthy plant growth.

Climate

Blueberries require a cool climate with temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. The crop also requires relatively high amounts of water supply to sustain a healthy and productive growth.

Water and irrigation requirements

Sufficient amounts of water for growing blueberries can be described as that which will maintain the soils as consistently moist but not waterlogged. Remember, the bushes are sensitive to excess water and can develop root rot. Therefore, the crop requires regular watering either through irrigation or rainfall. This is best done through drip irrigation, which applies water directly to the roots, or through overhead sprinklers for the hotter areas to keep the leaves cool and reduce the risk of sunburn.

 

Areas Growing Blueberries in Kenya

In Kenya, the highlands of the Central and Western regions, such as the Aberdare Ranges and Mount Kenya, provide the ideal conditions for blueberry cultivation in open fields.

Currently, blueberries are being grown in a few of these regions, mainly in Murang’a by Kakuzi limited. At the moment, Kakuzi grows the fruits in pots under a greenhouse covering 10 hectares. This is the largest successful blueberry farm in Kenya for now.

 

Health Benefits of Blueberries

Blueberries are a highly nutritious fruit that offer a range of health benefits. They are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants, including anthocyanins.

The king of antioxidants

One of the key benefits of blueberries is their antioxidant content. Antioxidants help to protect the body against damage from free radicals, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Blueberries, in particular, have a high concentration of anthocyanins, which are a type of antioxidant that gives the berries their blue color. These anthocyanins have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve brain function.

Rich source of vitamins

In addition to their antioxidant content, blueberries are also a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Vitamin C is an important nutrient for maintaining a healthy immune system, while vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Blueberries also contain a moderate amount of fiber, which can help to promote digestion and regulate blood sugar levels.

Protects you from Chronic diseases by their anti-inflammatory characteristics

Furthermore, blueberries have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. These anti-inflammatory effects may be due to the presence of compounds called flavonoids, which are also found in blueberries.

Weight management

Eating blueberries regularly can also aid in weight management, as they are low in calories and high in fiber, which can help to promote feelings of fullness and reduce overall calorie intake.

Market and Price

The market for blueberries in Kenya is rapidly growing, with increasing demand from both local and international buyers. These fruits are currently available only in select supermarkets. The price of blueberries in Kenya is currently between Ksh1,600-2,000 per kilogram, depending on the quality of fruit.

How to Start Your Own Blueberry Farm

Starting a blueberry farm in Kenya at the moment might require you to dig a little deeper into your pocket, but it is worth it. Here’s what you need:

  1. Choose the right variety: Different varieties of blueberries have different soil and climate requirements, so it's important to choose a variety that is well-suited to your growing conditions. Highbush blueberries are the most commonly grown variety and can tolerate a wide range of climates and soil types, while lowbush and rabbiteye blueberries are a bit sensitive and not ideal for starters.
  2. Prepare the soil: Blueberries prefer loam or sandy loam soils. The red volcanic soils of central Kenya are ideal since they are also slightly acidic, giving the required pH of 4.5 to 5.5. If your soil is not naturally acidic, you can amend it with animal manure, rabbit Urine or peat moss to lower the pH. Additionally, you should add compost manure matter to the soil to improve its fertility and structure.
  3. Ensure recommended spacing: For highbush blueberries, a common spacing is 4-5 feet between plants and 8-10 feet between rows. This allows for proper air circulation and sunlight penetration, which can help to prevent disease and promote fruit production. For lowbush and rabbiteye blueberries, which are smaller in size, a spacing of 2-3 feet between plants and 4-5 feet between rows is recommended.
  4. It's also important to note that blueberries can be grown in containers, in this case, the container should be at least 18 inches in diameter and deep enough to accommodate the plants root system. A spacing of 2-3 feet between plants is recommended in this case.
  5. Plant at the right location: Blueberries should be planted on a location that gets full sun for at least 8 hours a day. Hence do not plant them under big trees that cast shadows on them.
  6. Provide proper irrigation: Blueberries require regular watering during the growing season to keep the soil consistently moist. This typically means providing 1-1.5 inches of water per week, either through irrigation or rainfall.
  7. Prune and maintain the bushes: Blueberries require regular pruning to remove dead or diseased wood, and to promote bush growth. Prune the bushes just before the rains. Additionally, it's important to keep an eye out for pests or diseases that could damage the bushes.
  8. Fertilize: Blueberries benefit from regular fertilization, especially with an acidic fertilizer that has a high percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) such as: 5-10-10, 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

 

Blueberry farming

Note: It is recommended to plant more than one blueberry variety on your farm to help in crosspollination which improves the quality of fruits. When planting multiple varieties of blueberries, it's important to ensure that they are compatible in terms of bloom time and pollination.

 

Profitability of blueberry farming in Kenya:

Blueberry farming in Kenya is highly profitable because of the low supply against a high and growing demand. An acre of land can accommodate approximately 2,000 bushes. The bushes start bearing fruits after 2 years and the yield keeps increasing to peak at 4 years when the plants fully mature.

At maturity, a single blueberry bush can produce 5kgs of fruits per year. That means you can get 10 tons of fruit from one acre. At the current price of Ksh1600, you would be making Ksh16 million in revenue if you sell directly to the end consumers.


Where to buy blueberry seedlings

There aren’t many blueberry seedlings for sale in Kenya. However, you can get high quality seedlings from Richfarm Kenya from time to time. You can reach them on +254724698357 or +254723213602 to order for your seedlings. You might need to wait in line for your seedlings to be produced.