Why I opted to grow capsicum, says Kiprono
Kennedy Kiprono started growing a variety of horticultural crops in 2013. He tried his hands on collard greens (sukuma wiki), cabbages, pepper, black nightshades (mnavu in standard Swahili), as well as capsicum.
However, it dawned on him that of all the horticultural crops, capsicum was the only one that was offering him the best returns for value. As a result, he decided to venture full throttle into capsicum farming.
“I specialised in capsicum farming three years ago. First, I started by growing hay, then sukumawiki, cabbages, pepper, black nightshades and capsicum was part of these crops,” he says, adding that he had subdivided his farm into small seedbeds for each crop.
“But I realised that among all these, capsicum was giving me higher margins in profits,” adds the farmer, who engages himself in capsicum farming in Turbo, Uasin Gishu County.
He grows capsicum variety referred to as F1 and he buys seeds from various companies. He orders seeds directly from Nairobi and gets them delivered to him at home. He reveals that after sowing, the seeds take two months in the nursery before they are transplanted to the seedbeds. Nevertheless, this happens only when the climate is favourable.
“If it is too cool, the seedlings take up to 75 days in the nursery,” adds the father of two.
The farmer says that he portions his farm into small portions, whereby he plants 300 seedlings in each. During planting, he leaves a spacing of 60cm by 45cm.
“In every seedbed, I plant approximately 300 seedlings, hence 50 seedbeds per acre. They (experts) tell us to plant 10,000 seedlings per acre, with a spacing of 60cm by 60cm, but I plant 15,000 seedlings with a spacing of 60cm by 45cm,” says the 36-year-old farmer.
Kiprono reveals that seeds that ought to be planted per acre are expensive, and he spends about Sh16,000 in purchasing them. He adds that ready to plant seedlings go for Sh5 each.
“Right now, if you want to purchase capsicum F1 seedlings, the least price you will buy them may retail at Sh5,” says the farmer, adding that one can spend up to Sh75,000 on seedlings alone.
The farmer also propagates seedlings which he sells to other farmers.
“I sell the seedlings at a price of Sh5 for a farmer, who purchases with intent to grow it on a one-acre piece of land. But for those who buy in small quantities, I sell them at Sh7 each,” reveals the farmer.
He does most of the work at the farm, to minimise expenses.
“On my side, the total costs of production, in my records is Sh83,000 per acre. Most of the labour work is on my side. It is labour intensive, but I try to minimise labour to maximise profits. A farmer who wishes to employ labourers can spend about Sh200,000,” reveals Kiprono.
Kiprono uses organic fertilisers during planting, which he buys from Nairobi, and he applies top dressing fertilisers when the plants begin flowering.
Currently, the farmer has two acres of capsicum. In one acre the fruits are being harvested and the other acre, have not reached the maturity stage.
According to him, one kilo of capsicum goes for between Sh30 and Sh80. He reveals that his weekly target harvest is 1,000kgs. He earns Sh60,000 from the produce weekly, before deducting expenses of approximately Sh5,000, whereby in total, he earns a profit of Sh55,000 per week. In a bad week, he earns roughly Sh40,000 from the produce which he sells to customers from various towns, which include Nairobi.
Kiprono reveals that the amount he earns from capsicum cannot be compared to maize which takes time to mature and that brings little profit.
The farmer, who reveals that he has several customers, adds that producing high-quality produce in large quantities is one way of attracting and maintaining customers.
Some of the challenges that he has come across in capsicum farming are pests and diseases such as aphids, mites, blight, and powdery mildew. Another challenge he has experienced is shortage of water. Nevertheless, he plans to invest in drilling water in future.
With good agronomic practices, the farmer says, capsicum takes 60 days in nursery and another 75 days in the field where the seedlings are transplanted to. This means the crop takes almost five months before reaching maturity.