Popcorn Maize Farming in Kenya

Popcorn as the name suggests is a type of maize that pops when heated. Its unique popping ability has made it a cherished snack enjoyed by people all around the world.


Traditionally, maize farming has been a staple in Kenya and in the quest for diversification and higher returns, we have farmers who are turning their attention to popcorn, a variant of maize specifically cultivated for its popping quality. The rise of popcorn farming in Kenya can be attributed to factors such as its growing demand both domestically and internationally, its low-calorie and high fiber content and its adaptability to Kenya’s conducive climate and fertile soils.

Popcorn Snack

In Kenya, several varieties of popcorn are cultivated, each with its own unique characteristics suited to different agro-ecological zones. Some of the popular varieties of popcorn cultivated in Kenya include butterfly, mushroom, and rice popcorn. These varieties vary in kernel size, shape, and popping characteristics, allowing farmers to choose the most suitable option based on factors such as soil type, climate, and market demand.

Popcorn farming in Kenya typically follows similar cultivation practices to traditional maize farming. Its planting entails ploughing the land followed by planting the seeds either manually or using mechanized equipment such as planters. Adequate spacing between rows and proper control are essential to optimize crop growth and yield. In regions with irregular rainfall partners, supplementary irrigation may be necessary to manage the issue of moisture stress.

Harvesting

Harvesting of popcorn usually occurs when the kernels have reached physiological maturity. Unlike field corn, which is harvested for grain, popcorn is harvested for its dried kernels. The ears of popcorn are typically handpicked from the stalks and allowed to air dry in the field or in well-ventilated storage facilities.

Benefits that come with popcorn farming.

Popcorn farming offers numerous benefits to the farmers like,

·      Higher Returns

Popcorn generally commands a higher price in the market compared to regular maize, providing farmers with increased income potential.

·      Employment opportunities

The expansion of popcorn farming has created opportunities along the value chain, from cultivation and harvesting to processing and distribution.

Market opportunities.

The demand for popcorn in Kenya is driven by both domestic consumption and export markets. Locally, popcorn is a popular snack enjoyed in households, cinemas, and entertainment venues. Supermarkets and malls are offering the greatest local markets in Kenya by supplying the popcorn seeds and snack as well. At the moment, one kilogram of popcorn seeds is going for about ksh400-ksh500 in local supermarkets in Kenya.

Internationally, Kenyan popcorn has gained recognition for its quality and flavour, opening export opportunities to markets in Europe, North America, and the Middle East.