Njogu: Tissue culture bananas pay well
He has been raising tissue culture banana seedlings since 2006. And is not about to quit the agribusiness venture any time soon.
“I have always desired to raise seedlings. In 2006, when I quit formal employment, some friends asked me to source for them 140 tissue culture banana seedlings that were ready to plant. I brought from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Thika, after they fuelled my car,’’ says Anthony Njogu, who carries out tissue culture banana farming in Kirinyaga County.
After one season, his customers developed much more interest, and this compelled him to take the seedlings to them, charging them some amount. After two years, the farmer met some specialists from a tissue culture biotechnology firm who had attended an agricultural show in Embu County, whereby he talked to them and eventually they agreed to sell the ready to plant seedlings to him, at discounted price, so that he would sell them to his clients for a profit.
“When rain seasons started, I bought these ready to plant seedlings at Sh75 each, and sold them at Sh100 to farmers who needed them,’’ he says, adding that he would transport them in his vehicle from the lab in Nairobi, to Kirinyaga County, where he had put up a shade net in his home.
Since he was purchasing the seedlings at Sh75 per seedling and selling them at Sh100, he was making a profit of Sh25 from each tissue culture banana seedling.
However, the farmer realised that he could do better by buying small tissue culture plantlets and raising them in the shade net nursery, and selling them after a period of four months. That is what the farmer has been doing up to now.
The 57-year-old reveals that he started with 140 seedlings, but currently, he is capable of handling 20,000 in a year. This means if he is capable of selling all the 20,000 tissue culture banana seedlings at a price of Sh110, he can make up to Sh2.2 million grand total per year.
“I source the plantlets from Genetic Technologies Limited and Mimea International labs in Nairobi-all registered laboratories,’’ says the farmer, who holds a PhD degree in Climate Change and Adaptation, from the University of Nairobi.
In a quest to make huge sales, the farmer has employed various strategies. To begin with, he has continuously done research on the varieties that have high market demand in the locality and in other parts of the country.
According to the farmer, the varieties that are in high demand include; Grand Naine, Williams Hybrid, Plantain, Giant Cavendish, Green Kiganda, Nusu Ng’ombe, Valery, FHIA 1 and FHIA 17.
Apart from that, he uses past sales records to extrapolate future seedlings demand. He also attends ASK shows and exhibitions as well as visiting farmers’ fields.
The farmer also advises farmers and clients with technical advice and links them to markets in Nairobi. In addition, he transports to customers’ farms and uses commission agents.
“Whenever I get a new customer through referral from an older one, I reward the one who referred the new customer to me, with a commission,’’ says Njogu, who sells a single seedling at Sh110.
The farmer adds that if transport is required, he negotiates the transport costs, and share with the customer. However, he cites drought as one of the challenges he has ever experienced in his farming, since it reduces demand for the seedlings.
Albeit the farmer reveals that there is no fixed profit, he however, says that one can make a profit of Sh25 per seedling. Nevertheless, he reveals that whatever he gets has enabled him to educate his two children up to university level, and has also enabled him to pursue higher education up to PhD level.
The farmer advises folks to embrace tissue culture technology in bananas and other crops, as a way of multiplication of clean planting materials.