Chilli farming & value addition Tapping on the insatiable, local and internationally demand for Chillies

Chilli farming & value addition Tapping on the insatiable, local and internationally demand for Chillies

Knowing exactly what type of crop to grow is one thing that a farmer can grapple with. Most farmers in Kenya are resilient and when life presents to them an opportunity, they grab it and harness it to maximum benefits. Edward Githegi is one person who when life presented to him lemons, he turned it around and made lemonades. He has found a lifeline in growing Demon F1 chilli variety which have a wider market and handsome returns from the export market

Demon F1 variety is a crossbreed between Bullet and Africa Bird Eye chilli varieties. The breeders of the variety were informed by the need of having a variety that is slightly bigger in size and which is hotter hence the crossbreeding. Demon F1 is a vigorous variety with reliable production in a range of different growing areas. Its fruit is a very nice, firm quality, bright red color and uniform in size and shape.

The variety is gaining prominence among farmers due to its fast maturity rate, its superior pest and diseases resistance traits and low cost of production. On average the crop takes two to three months to mature and being a perennial crop, harvesting is year round.

Besides Demon, Africa Bird Eye and Bullet varieties, there are several other chilli varieties grown such as Habareno, Cayenne, Serenade and Jalapeno among others. Chillies have a high nutrient content of vitamin A, B, and C and other valuable minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron.

As Edwards takes Hortfresh Journal crew on a tour of his vast chilli farm, he points out the countless opportunities in the agricultural sector which he says are available to those who are ready to roll up their sleeves. “Even then, you must strategize well and be willing to delve into farming fully. One must first find a sure market for the produce even before thinking of where to get farming land. The main problem is, young people don’t like getting dirty in the farm, “he says.

Besides farming, Edward is an agronomist contracted by Amiran to provide solutions to farmers within the Mt Kenya region and the entire Ukambani areas. “I also do production plans for new farmers who are engaging in farming for the first time. Production plan is a projection of what they want to do, at which exact time and the entire cost. We charge it a negotiable fee,” he divulged.

While cultivating tomatoes and capsicums, Githegi stumbled upon chilli farming on the internet, he was impressed and carried out a market survey about the crop. Beside the research, he visited E-Farm, a company that is based in Thika town where he learned a lot about chilli farming. He also visited several farmers in the country to get hands-on information and also paid a visit to one of the exporters.

“Chillies are good, they add magic to a plate of food and even more, they spice up farmers’ wallet. They are a good product; they don’t give a lot of stress compared to tomatoes, whether harvested green or left on the farm to turn red, you will still get a buyer. If you don’t get a buyer, you can harvest them, dry them and sell them as dried chilies. Either way, chilies won’t stress you much as compared to other highly perishable produce that I have tried my hands on,” he said.

While Githegi grows Chillies, Martha Mutoni and Monica Njoroge are finding a lifeline in value addition of the crop. They trade under the brand Big Spoon Limited, selling locally and to exporters, exporting to the Asian market; with countries like India and Bahrain expressing insatiable demand for the product. Their products include chilli powder, chilli paste and chilli flakes among other dried products.

Their inspiration to value addition was drawn when they were farming chillies in Isinya, Kajiado County where exporters visited their farm every Friday to collect the produce. Some of the exporters requested them to be drying and the exporters would collect the dried chillies for grinding and exportation. “We began supplying 500 kilos every day to the exporters and increased to 1 tonne; we ran out of the produce and to be able continue meeting this lucrative demand, we began outsourcing from other farmers in Malindi, Isinya and Mwea. While doing this, three largest spices companies in Kenya approached us and we started supplying to them also,” Martha narrates.

A kilogram of fresh chillies retails between Ksh 70 to Ksh 80 while a grounded half a kilogram retails at Ksh. 380. The grounded chillies have a longer shelf, thus extending the selling period.

Many African farmers export raw produce, but there is a growing recognition that the next stage of economic growth requires ‘adding value’ to raw products and commodities. This will act as a mean of accelerating job creation, promote higher profit margins and returns on investment.

“Everything on this farm starts and ends with the management. If you have a management that understands the business and are passionate about it, there is nothing the company cannot overcome. We have had our knock offs especially at the beginning when the returns was a small profit which was heartbreaking. During Covid period our buyers also slashed the prices but we have also had time to strategize, deliberate and come up with plans that I can say have breathed a new life to our business. Passion and team work have brought us this far, “said Martha.

“Our main aim was to master the art of value addition and we have lived to that. Our target in the coming years will be to start exporting. When in the export market we will be able to learn more and expand our business. Being exporters ourselves will enable us explore the market well, learn and grasp the various market dynamics rather than giving out the produce to someone else to sell for you. The market for value added products is there, and also if the trade pacts being signed by African leaders like the recently signed business pacts between Kenya and Tanzania can open up more market, it can really be encouraging to the African farmers,” Martha concluded.

Chilli is one of the crops that remain untapped despite its growing demand in both local and international markets. The fact that it is relatively easy to grow compared to many other crops is an added advantage especially to smallholder farmers.

Share This


Wordpress (0)
Disqus ( )
× Whatsapp us