Plantain Farming In Kenya: A Guide From Planting To Profitable Marketing

Plantain farming in Kenya is one of the highly profitable kinds of farming being done by only a few farmers. This is because plantain bananas (now known as Mkono wa Tembo in Swahili) were not well known to Kenyans, until very recently. When business people started importing plantains from Uganda, the demand suddenly started growing. The well-informed farmers quickly saw the opportunity, brought in the planting materials and started producing them locally.

Plantain farming in Kenya

But what are plantain bananas and why are they loved so much?

Plantain is actually a cousin of banana, only that they have a different flavour and culinary use from the ordinary bananas that we know. Although they originate from the South Eastern part of Asia, plantain farming is now done across the world including in Kenya.

The key differences between ordinary bananas and plantain are:

  • Plantains are bigger and longer
  • Plantains have thicker skin
  • Plantains are mostly for cooking, even when they are ripe.

Also Read: Banana Farming in Kenya: The Best Practices for Commercial Production

Nutritionally, plantains are also different from bananas in that they contain higher levels of starch and lower levels of sugars than bananas. They cook way better than bananas and can be prepared using many different cooking methods: they can be fried, roasted, sautéed, baked or simply boiled. 

Plantain farming: it is now very profitable due to the soaring demand for the crop

I guess you can now see why their demand in Kenya is rising so fast.

Where plantain farming is done in Kenya

Plantains are mostly produced at the Kenyan coast. However, due to the growing demand, farmers in mid and higher altitude areas such as Kiambu and Kericho have taken up the cultivation of this crop. The good thing is that plantains can grow anywhere in Kenya as long as they receive full sun and are planted on soils with sufficient nutrients and organic content. However, they do not perform well in very cold areas like the frost-prone areas of Nyandarua.

Plantain farming at the Kenya coast: The crop has also been taken up by farmers in other places in Kenya due to high demand

How to plant plantains

Size of the planting hole

Being a cousin of bananas, plantains must be planted in huge holes measuring at least 60cm wide and 60cm deep. We make such a big planting hole to allow space for incorporation of enough manure and for irrigation. This also encourages the mother plant to produce suckers which grow to become the next generation of fruit bearing plantain trees.

Plant Spacing

Plantains are best grown in lines that are 3m apart. The distance from one planting hole to the next can also be 3m. However, for large scale farms that intent to use machinery in harvesting and transporting the ready plantains, an inter-row spacing of 5m is advised.

The actual planting

Plantains are grown from suckers obtained from the base of a mature mother plant. However, the best planting material are tissue culture seedlings. With tissue culture seedlings, you are sure that you will be getting true-to-type plants that are also disease free. To get either plantain suckers or tissue culture seedlings, call Richfarm Kenya on 0724698357.

Now having your planting material ready and the holes dug, mix the top soil with at least 1 bucket of animal or compost manure. Fill the planting hole with this mixture and leave about 15cm space for irrigation: you do not need to leave the space if you will be using drip irrigation system.

With the holes ready, plant the seedling at the very centre of the hole and water till the soil is completely soaked. Plantains, just like bananas require a lot of water in order to grow well.

Maturity period for plantain

Plantains take 8 to 12 months from planting to the first harvesting. They grow faster in areas that are warmer, with fertile soils and availability of sufficient water. Good farming practices such as weeding, thinning and crop protection against pests and diseases would also see a farmer rewarded with shorter maturity period and a higher yield. Talking about pest and diseases, let us highlight a few of the most common ones and how to control them.

Plantain first fruiting at 8 months

Common Diseases that affect plantain and how to control them

1. Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV)

This is the most dreaded disease among the plantain farmers in Kenya. It is a viral disease that causes the top leaves to be “bunchy” and the plant to be stunted. BBTV can wipe out your entire plantation. There is no known cure for BBTV so farmers must take precautions to prevent and control it. Here are a few things you should do:

  • Plant resistant varieties,
  • Ensure your farm if free from aphids and other small insects that transmit the virus,
  • Remove any plants you suspect is infected and discard by burning or burying deep.

2. Black Sigatoka

This is a fungal disease that causes black spots on the leaves of plantains. It becomes a serious challenge if not controlled early. However, it is treatable and can be controlled by using fungicides, by planting resistant varieties and ensuring proper air circulation around the plants.

3. Panama disease

This is also a fungal disease that is cause by soil-borne pathogens. The leaves of the affected plants turn yellow, wilt and eventually die, finally killing the entire plantain tree. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Panama disease, but it can be controlled by planting resistant varieties and avoiding planting in areas where the disease is known to be present.

4. Anthracnose

This is a common fungal disease that mostly occurs during warm and dump weather. It causes brown spots on the plantain fruits, which may eventually turn into a rot. It can be controlled by using fungicides, planting resistant varieties, and harvesting fruits before the spots become too large.

5. Rhizome rot

This is a bacterial disease that causes the roots of plantain plants to rot. It can be controlled by planting in well-drained soil, avoiding over-watering and using bactericides.

In addition to these 5 diseases, plantains can also be affected by a number of common pests such as nematodes, mealybugs and scale insects. These pests can be controlled by using insecticides, biological control agents and cultural practices such as crop rotation.

Since some of these pests and diseases can spread very fast, it is important to monitor your plantain farm, looking for any possible signs of disease or pests.

Profitability of plantain farming in Kenya

If you are keen to do all the good agricultural practices that we have highlighted, you should be able to achieve yields of between 10 to 15 tons per acre every year. The average wholesale price of plantain bananas in Kenya is Ksh150 per kilo. Zucchini supermarket is actually selling a kilo at Ksh400 as you can see below.


Plantain price in Kenya: the price ranges between Ksh150 and Ksh400

The cost of producing 1 acre of plantains from planting through the first year of production is approximately Ksh200,000. This leaves a farmer with a high profit of over Ksh1,3 million every year. A plantain farm will be productive for many years as long as you keep providing the plants with nutrients and water.

How to make more profits from plantains

Most of the buyers that offer Ksh150 per kilo are middle men who go on to make a kill with your produce. You can cut these middle men off by selling directly to consumers through social media. You would also make much more if you process them into crisps, pack and sell through supermarkets and other wholesalers or distributors.

We are happy to guide you through the entire process of plantain farming in Kenya and its marketing. Please call us on 0724698357 / 0723213602 for any assistance. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you Rich farm kenya and am looking forward to meet you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rich farm for your looking forward to do business with you.

Anonymous said...

Hello, where can one get plantain suckers for planting

Anonymous said...

I need to purchase suckers for planting. How can I get?