Strawberry Farming in Kenya: Why Just A Few Farmers Are Swimming In The Berry Millions

High value crops are taking off across East Africa. While they might not be as popular as traditional crops yet, they’re gaining popularity really fast.

Strawberry farming is currently trending at the top of this list, particularly in Kenya. Farmers are sowing the seeds and expecting to reap rich rewards. And with good reason: The mature berries have a ready market in the country, and the demand is nowhere near being met.

strawberry farming in KenyaSimple economics dictates that when demand is high and supply is low, the prices will naturally be high. That is the current situation in Kenya; strawberry farmers are getting a good return for their mature crop. However, specialty crops require a great deal of care, expertise, and knowledge to grow successfully.

So can you really come out ahead by following the strawberry farming trend?

Are strawberries a get-rich crop?
I pose the question to William Njoroge, the proprietor of The Strawberry Farm in Kenya. “Yes, they are!” he answers. Njoroge believes every agriculture entrepreneur seeks to make money through their farming ventures. However, if potatoes are a get-rich crop (sweet potatoes soared in popularity several years ago), strawberries provide an even more assured way of making money through agriculture.

There is a caveat, however: The riches do not come to the clueless farmer. To overcome inexperience and misinformation, Njoroge recommends that farmers invest in four main areas: research and training to get information, the right cultivars (cultivated plant varieties), soil testing, and farm management.

There is a caveat, however: The riches do not come to the clueless farmer.

Research and training
This provides information that equips the farmer with knowledge about strawberry cultivars, their nutritional needs, and how to manage the crop. Interestingly, there is good enough information available online, even in well compiled booklets, but most people overlook this in a rush to make the quick money then they sink along the way.

Start-up capital and cultivars
Here’s the big catch: The start-up capital can be substantial depending on the size of your strawberry farm. The price of good cultivar ranges from Ksh30-60 per seedling depending on the variety. Strawberry experts recommend planting strawberry plants with a 30cm by 45cm spacing. With this, an acre will accommodate about 25,000 plants. If you were to acquire the seedlings at the lowest price of Ksh30 each, the cost would amount to Ksh750,000.

Some farmers plant as many as 30,000 plants in an acre, hence driving the start-up costs even higher. Those costs also don’t include fertilizer and equipment to prepare the land for planting.

Stawberries’ staying power
Asked whether strawberry farming is the latest fad in Kenya, Njoroge’s answer is an emphatic “No!” His reasons: Strawberry farming has staying power because farmers are not only interested in it, but there is also a vast untouched market in Kenya alone. If we were to consider the appetite for organic strawberries in the export market, the demand would go much higher.

Moreover, strawberry farming is possible in many parts of Kenya, except in areas with sandy soil. Strawberry cultivation can also be adapted to most of the farming infrastructure in the country. For example, while hydroponic strawberry farming (growing plants with water and nutrients but no soil) is ideal in some areas, new strawberry growers can start with the traditional route, where they plant the seeds on well-prepared soils, and later move to hydroponics.

A “fruitless” venture?
It is easy to assume that Kenyans are embracing strawberry farming in large numbers. But that is not the case. The uptake of strawberry farming is slow, and it’s delayed by obstacles. Njoroge notes that a significant number of first-time strawberry farmers have been duped into purchasing the wrong types of strawberry cultivars.

Some strawberry varieties, for instance, produce lots of leaves and offshoots but just a few fruit berries each season. When a first-time farmer plants such a variety and experiences the setbacks that come with it, many are inclined to give up and label strawberry farming as a “fruitless” venture.

Njoroge, who offers organic strawberry training on his farm in Uthiru, on the outskirts of Nairobi, emphasizes that farmers need to get the right variety of cultivars. They should also get some basic training on how to manage their strawberry farms, he says. He further advises testing the soil. Elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, iron, and manganese are vital for healthy plants, while boron (in small quantities) is essential for producing fruit.

The upshot
Strawberry farming can be a lucrative opportunity for people willing to invest their money, time, and sweat. Like most worthwhile endeavours, it requires patience and perseverance to reap rewards.

Read Also:

It’s A Sweet Weekly Or Daily Income From Strawberry Farming In Kenya

strawberry farming guide pdfThe first step towards making money with strawberry farming starts with information. 

This comprehensive strawberry farming guide consists of simple but comprehensive information that you need to get started. 

It even contains contacts that will help you get seedlings, agronomic support and market linkages. You can now request for it from our Resources Page


Anonymous said...

Good read. Thanks for sharing. Consider doing a piece on hydroponic strawberry farming. Grandeur Africa is one of the companies in that space.

Anonymous said...

Thanks give us your contact