Companies like trufood, zesta, Brookside, KCC among others are importing these strawberries to use in their daily production needs with outlets such as supermarkets and hotels requesting for more of them day in day out. It is crystal clear that there is demand for this sweet soft red fruit of Fragaria genus here in Kenya. Why are these companies importing? This is simply because we cannot produce enough ourselves. Very few farmers in Kenya have embraced strawberry production and they have been smiling all the way to the bank on weekly basis, others talk of daily basis.
Alexander Mwengi is one of the farmers who are struggling to satisfy the demand for the strawberries in Kenya. He has a farm in Machakos which is almost a 1/8 of an acre and he has been doing strawberry farming for almost a year now. He is happy!
According to Alex, strawberry farming can make your zeros in your bank account to increase greatly. He is selling more than 15 kilos every week via MFarm at a price of Ksh 320 per kg (Ksh 200 more than he gets if he sells to brokers) making over Ksh 4800 weekly. Remember, this is from his less-than-1/8 of an acre. Assuming he was doing ¾ or so! We would be talking of over Ksh 28,000.
Let’s go to central Kenya, Nyeri. Robert is one of the farmers who are enjoying the strawberry-flavoured cash. He has a ¾ strawberry farm which is giving him 150 kg of strawberries (his crop density is much higher than for Alex). He sells to brokers at a price of Ksh 150 per kg pocketing over Ksh 22,000 a week. And this he does every week during the harvesting season, which happens to be on the warm months of the year.
From all the farmers I interviewed, strawberry farming is good business for serious farmers. The demand is available, a high one for that matter. Alex and Robert among other farmers can attest to that.
“You can’t fail to sell the strawberries; they are in high demand as we speak now. All you need is plant and take care of them” Robert commented.
The good news!
Once you plant them, 70 days down the line you will get your first harvest. And guess what!! This will continue for up to 3 years with 2 to 3 harvesting seasons every year. It will depend on the variety planted with chandler one being the most favoured in Kenya. For 3 years you will be milking your ‘cash cow’ 3-4 times a week during harvesting period as long as you constantly keep your plants healthy(just like any other business venture, they will need your attention).
With the berries going out of season during rainy season, you can crop-rotate them with other rainy season crops from different family for continued revenue stream. Another good thing is that you can propagate the seedling from your plantation as long as the propagules are disease free. Just like grass, you can expand your plantation size without necessarily going to the seedling supplier again. The competition is still young. Anyone can make it in this business venture. Have you ever seen a strawberry garden?
This is not like quail farming with all the hype of good money and very little cost of production. This is for serious farmers only. Capital requirement for this business venture is like real estate business. And this is why very few farmers are managing it. A seedling goes for an average of Ksh 20 depending on your location with a 1/8 of an acre requiring over 3,000 seedlings. Can you handle that?
They require constant water supply and get this, it is not rain water but irrigation, drip irrigation for that matter since water on the leaves attracts fungal diseases. This is why during the rain seasons, those who are doing open field farming record reduced output leaving the green house farmers to run the show.
But not to worry, you can cover the strawberries with a net which keeps away disease causing pathogens as well as reducing the impact of rain drops which damage the leaves and flowers of the strawberries. And lastly, you will need a ready market during harvesting period. They are highly perishable!
Strawberry farming can be a nightmare but it’s worth it. You will need huge initial capital but the returns will make up for it. It will take only 6 to 7 months of harvesting to break even (recover your initial cost). From then you will be having a strawberry smile from your smartly acquired free asset. This is good business. Don’t you think so?
Image source: Baby-recipes.com