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Watermelon profits turning some Kenyan farmers away from maize

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-01-20  Views: 7
Core Tip: A farmer in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia county, Mark Mukopi, has been growing maize on his farm for around 14 years now, but a recent addition to his farm is proving to be profitable.
A farmer in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia county, Mark Mukopi, has been growing maize on his farm for around 14 years now, but a recent addition to his farm is proving to be profitable.

Last year he decided to farm watermelons, which are growing in popularity in the region. An acre of watermelon can fetch about 4,400 US dollars, which is quite a big jump from the 300 dollars he gets from maize crops of the same size.

“The harvest is good in spite of the poor weather. We have had very little rain, unlike what we anticipated initially, so the yield has not been as good as I wanted, but it's not bad for a start,” he said.

The farmer sells his melons to wholesalers at an average price of 1.50 US dollars for a watermelon weighing six kilograms. At the main market, many fruit traders said they sell about 10 tonnes of the fruit per week to regular clients.

“You find that you sell about 10 pineapples per day but with watermelon you can sell 100 to 150 kilos per day on retail,” said Peter Irungu, a trader.

Trans Nzoia county Agronomist, Kenneth Kagai, said that while more farmers diversify, food security is not at risk.

“We are encouraging our farmers to practice a farming system whereby they can have maize as a first crop during the long rains and then after harvesting the maize, especially those farmers who have got water. they are able to irrigate their farms and plant alternative crops like the watermelon,” he said.
 
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