Kiambu County smallholder farmers have been urged to upscale the production of strawberry to meet the expanding demand by food and milk processing companies in the country.
Speaking on Friday in Kiambu, area Sub-County Agricultural Officer, Jane Muigai, said that the traditional maize type of farming is being replaced by more profitable and efficient ways of strawberry farming that are aimed at providing both sustainability and profitability.
“Strawberries have emerged as some of the sought after fruits in the Kenyan market prompting many farmers to venture into the business and establish strawberry farms,” said Muigai.
She said that strawberry farming does well in cool climates and areas with high rainfall especially in Limuru and Githunguri Sub-Counties.
Muigai said that a farmer, who is a beginner, needs 1/8 of an acre of land and for an urban setting a few containers will do and one can put in his or her backyard and start farming.
“If one has secured a piece of land in a place with supply of water they can go on and look for seeds like chandelier strawberry which is suited for the kind of climate in Kiambu,” added Muigai.
The Agricultural officer said that the crop matures within 70 days and is ready for harvest.
“Since the fruits are perishable, we link farmers with the right market like supermarkets after receiving accreditation from Kenya Bureau of Standards,” said Muigai.
According to her, a 1\8 of an acre can produce between 30kg and 50kg of strawberries per week with a revenue return of between Sh 20, 000 and Sh 40, 000.
She said that companies like Trufood, Zesta, Brookside, and New Kenya Cooperative Creameries, among others, are importing these strawberries to use in their daily production needs because of low production locally.
“Outlets such as supermarkets and hotels are requesting for more of the strawberries daily. The potential of the sector is huge for our farmers,” observed Muigai.
Tabitha Gicheru, Kiambu Sub-County Agribusiness Officer, said that the ministry is assisting farmers interested in this kind of farming by doing value addition.
“Through training and providing machinery to farmers to make juices and pickles we have encouraged them to invest in strawberry farming,” said Gicheru.
Similarly, the Agribusiness Officer said that her office has linked farmers with companies like Fresha where they supply strawberries for flavour addition.
A spot check at the local market, a pile of strawberries goes for Sh 100 and farmers are sure to make a profit if they invest in the business.
Dorothy Mwaura, a farmer in Kiambu said that she started growing strawberries in old jerry cans in her front yard due to space limitation.
“I decided to plant strawberries instead of flowers. They looked beautiful and people were surprised to see the berries as the plants matured. A few people even took up the idea and decided to plant them in their homes,” added Ms Mwaura.
Hannah Njeri, another farmer in Githunguri, has a small kitchen garden where she planted strawberries.
“Armed with advice from extension officers, I have been able to educate my son in class two and feed my family,” said Njeri.
Njeri rakes in Sh 30,000 shillings monthly from her farming and has been able to sign contracts with local supermarkets as a supplier.