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Kenyan passion fruit making inroads

  • Kenyan passion fruit making inroads

    by Market Insider

    Monday, 30 Sep. 2013

    A 20-year research by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has developed three new passion fruit varieties, Kenya passion fruit KPF 4, KPF 11 and KPF 12; experts say the new varieties could help lift the economic status of smallholder farmers and contribute to a rapid increase in passion fruit production.

    The new varieties are not only drought tolerant but are more suited to the fresh market and processing; although these varieties have similar physical characteristics with types grown in the coastal region, they are of superior quality being sweeter than those grown in the coast region, bigger in size, juicier and more tolerant to soil and foliar diseases.

    Kenya has begun to commercialise these varieties; systems are in place to ensure quality and increase production and KARI will identify community nurseries in warm areas to transfer technology to farmers. A multi-stakeholder project promoting commercialisation of passion fruit in Kenya is at the bulking stage.

    KARI has propagated 30,000 seedlings for distribution in Eastern, Central and parts of Rift Valley Provinces and estimates that a farmer can harvest as much as three tonnes from a hectare of land.

    For this project, a soft drink giant producer has offered to buy the passion fruit concentrates from intermediaries for later value addition into quality juices. This is a good news for thousands of farmers pegging their hopes on the product at a time when the country's production capacity is below the market demand.

    Passion fruit has quick financial returns for both the domestic and export markets because it takes only one year for the crop to mature. Two more companies are collaborating with KARI in the project; one will provide loans to passion fruit farmers while another will extract concentrates for sale to juice processors.

    According to KARI, vegetative material is obtained from locally growing varieties which have been bred with a superior strain. Data from KARI shows that two varieties have been predominantly grown in Kenya. The purple passion, the most common which does well in mid-attitude regions, has quick market returns but is susceptible to fungal disease, brown spot and passion fruit woodiness virus complex. Whereas the yellow passion fruit does well in hot regions, it is highly tolerant to soil-borne diseases. The yellow passion fruit‘s strength is in its acidity content and strong flavour. The KARI fruit breeding programme initiated activities to improve yellow passion fruit including use of the yellow type as rootstalk.

    Fresh produce of passion fruit cultivated in the North Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Provinces targets the local and regional markets. It is one of the leading commercial businesses in the North Rift where the area under passion fruit is increasing rapidly. However, farmers in these regions face major challenges with quality planting materials, agronomic and pest and disease management. Diseases of economic importance are passion fruit woodiness virus complex, Fusarium wilt and brown spot. The majority of the growers apply sub-optimal fertilizers.

    Kari is specialized not only in seedlings distribution but also offers technical advice to upscale passion fruit production training farmers on fruit agronomics, crop management practices and propagation of the varieties.

    The new KPF 12 variety is already enjoying good sales in the European market.

    Source: Hortifruit

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