The most common exports from Kenya are horticultural. These range from tea and coffee to flowers. However, there are several subsistence crops like potatoes that rarely receive mention yet they are great cash crops. Hence, here is a list of the top six crops to source this year from small plots of land and with high yields.
A perennial crop that is always on demand for garnishing meals, onions are a must-have for both importers and exporters. Locally, red onions cost an average KSH 70 ($0.7) per kilo. This can change by variety and by season. Across the world markets, Spain alongside Belgium supply Europe but suffer from low yields due to climate issues. India, a major supplier experienced a drought in 2017, which lowered its total exports by 30%.
Therefore, you can bet on onions from Kenya for breaking even in the international market. In Kenya, onions are major cash crops under irrigation in the drier parts of Central province, Naivasha, Emali and the South Rift.
Though French and pod beans are the top exports among legumes in Kenya, common beans take the crown as both staples and profitable local resale produce. A bagful of beans retails at an average of KSH 8000 ($800). Furthermore, the yields per acre can be over a dozen 90kg bags, more than other food staples.
The major world sources of beans is the Americas. The region had 6.6 million hectares of the crop by mid 2000s. The main markets for Kenya beans and other legumes are the UK which imported 19000 MT in 2016.
Of all major fruits available in Kenya, passion fruit is the most versatile in terms of high yields per small plot of land. Some reports indicate that a farmer in Kenya has ever harvested 50 tons from one hectare. With the price per kilo going for an average KSH50 ($0.5), with marginal markup during off-season sales, the fruit is a major source of extra revenue.
The demand for the fruit is not just in the table fruit market but in tropical juice production. Two major bottlers in Kenya rely on supplies from passion fruit farmers for processing. In the world, passion fruit comes mainly from the tropics in two regions: Africa and Latin America. Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are the leaders in the export of tropical concentrates and pulp from the fruit to Europe. Kenya, Mozambique and other African growers export mainly table fruits to the Netherlands, the UK and the rest of the European Union.
Another fruit that squeezes easily into a tight plot of land, yields highly and matures in just two months is strawberry. In Kenya, the fruit thrives in the highlands under cool climate and has even entered suburban areas as a garden plant. An acre yields an average 25,000 kilograms. The fruit is harvested one each week, with reports of 60 to 100 kilo yields per half an acre which can continue for an extended duration. The price in Kenya is KSH 200 ($2) weekly.
In the world market, the United States, especially California is a major producer. The UK is a major importer and holds 51 percent of all soft fruits in the local market. They serve as value addition sources for candy, yoghurt and cream.
A hardy crop that can even grow in the drier parts of Kenya’s North-Eastern under drip irrigation, watermelon is a cash crop with a difference in size and revenue. A single fruit goes for KSH 200 ($2). An average acre of land can provide about $150 in the low season. The main reseller market is in Nairobi and other urban centers where buyers go for the fruit to quench thirst and bundle up on vitamin K.
Central and South America are the world’s major suppliers of water melon but Africa gets an export window because of the unreliable seasonal supply from Brazil and Costa Rica. Other world suppliers include China, US, Australia and South Africa. The main importing nations are from Europe and include Belgium and the Netherlands.
A potato sack may be limited to being heavy and lazy but it is one of the staples across Kenya and the world with high returns. About 60 percent of potato supplies from Kenya go into food at home and in restaurants in the form of chips. The potato bags range from 50kg to 180kg and can fetch KSH 2000. With an acre having a potential for a hundred bags, the crop can be quite lucrative in trade.
In the world, potato production picks at 381.7 million tons, using 2014 figures. Virtually all parts of the globe including Europe, North America and Africa produce their own tubers which they retail locally and internationally. Asia is the world leader in potato production, a crown that Ireland and Europe held for years. Europe remains the main export market as it consumes 90 kilos per capita each year.
Thus, if you are into Kenya potato, watermelon, strawberry, passion fruit or onions, then these are quite promising for the importer and exporter. All the crops grow in the highlands or under irrigation. With the world exhibiting different seasons for each crop’s growth, there is alway a seasonal window to make revenue if you are in Kenya.