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Price stability attracts more farmers to grow passion fruits

By WILLIES MWANIKI
Francis Irungu tends to his passion fruits at his farm in Jumatatu Village, Nakuru County. PHOTO: WILLIES MWANIKI.

Francis Irungu Muturi resides at the far end of Jumatatu village in Nakuru County where he practices passion fruits farming in a small portion of 25 by 30 meters. He ventured in passion fruits agribusiness in 2017 after attending agricultural seminars, and since then, the venture has profiteered significantly encouraging him to soldier on.

He started by planting 30 seedlings, which he bought from a certified dealer where 24 of them survived, and later, he added them up to 50. He has been expanding his passion farm gradually, and currently, he has 70 mature passion fruit stems and 200 others that he planted recently.

“The first harvest last year netted 35 kilos and motivated me very much, and since that time I have put a lot of effort to expand my agribusiness venture from the current 25 by 30 meters of land aiming to half an acre,” says the farmer.

He added that the yield increased and stabilized to an average of 80 to 120 kilograms weekly. He has been selling the produce to local dealers in Nakuru town at Sh100 per kilo.

In a bid to diversify his agribusiness, Irungu plants vegetables and potatoes between the spaces of passion rows.

“Intercropping the passion fruits plants with legumes such as beans help in nitrogen-fixing, which is essential for both the passion plant and the fruit,” says Irungu.

Intercropping passion fruits with other crops makes economic sense because a farmer will fully utilize the space in between the fruit planting rows.

The scenario makes the farmer reap from the top and the ground. For instance, Irungu has planted cabbages and potatoes between the rows, which he is expecting will earn him extra revenue. He expressed his satisfaction in passion fruit farming compared to other farming he has practiced before.

“The profit that I earned last year from the 25 by 30 meters’ small piece of land is double the profit that I have been earning from one and a half acres of land through maize farming annually,” he added.

Passion farming is a straightforward agribusiness venture, and it is relatively manageable, he says.

“Certified seedlings are readily available in the market and at affordable prices of around ten shillings per seedling. Once you plant the seedlings and they survive, they just require less labor force and they don’t need much input.” Irungu said.

Irungu only adds a little fertilizer and cow manure to the plants in order to enrich the soil with nutrients and for better fruit production. He also encourages youths and farmers, who face a land shortage, to indulge themselves in passion farming since it does not require much piece of land.

Unlike many agricultural produce that experiences the poor market and fluctuating prices, passion fruit beat the odd as it has a ready market with stable prices.

“The demand for passion is very high, and we can’t even meet it. For example, the Nakuru dealer whom I sell my passion keeps on asking for more as he relies more on the fruits from parts of the Eldoret region. If there were plenty of produce within the region, he would have preferred to buy the fruits within to maximize the profit,” Irungu said.

He also told us that the price of passion fruits remains stable at a range of 90 to 100 shillings per kilogram. The major challenge that Irungu encounters in passion farming is the leaf rust disease that affects the leaves of the passion vines and may lead to a decrease in fruit production. The condition is common during the extreme cold seasons in the region, and the farmer recalls how it affected their passion fruit farm in more than ten years ago.

“In 2005, we were practicing passion farming selling to export dealers from the diaspora and Uganda (for low-quality fruits), but leaf rust disease became more tolerant of the pesticides we applied during that time, forcing us to quit passion farming. But now, with the new technology and new pesticides, the disease is easily controllable, and we are not turning back,” Irungu said.

Irungu has a future projection of expanding his passion farm to half an acre land since he has already witnessed the profitability of passion farming. “Passion fruits farming provides quick cash to the farmer,” the farmer says, adding that the money acquired from the venture has helped him and his family much in sustaining their living.

He also plans to venture in grafted tree tomato fruits and yellow passions since he has experienced how such fruits are profitable.

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