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Before we even delve into the profitability of dragon fruit farming in Kenya, let us first explain what this thing is.

Dragon fruit, also called Pitaya, is a fruit that grows on a plant of the cactus family.

There are many varieties of the fruit, distinguishable by the colour of the fruit skin and flesh.

Some have a red skin while others have a yellow one. The flesh can be red, purple or white. The red and purple fleshed dragon fruits are sweet while the white fleshed ones are a little sour.

So why would it be wise to invest in dragon fruit farming in Kenya now?

Here are the reasons:

*1) Dragon fruits are easy to grow*

New plants are easily grown from cuttings. All you need to do is obtain cuttings from a mature vine, keep them under a shade to dry off their tips for about a week and then plant them.

The cuttings are planted by burying the lower tip (just about 1 inch) into the soil.

In about 2 weeks the cuttings start developing roots and new shoots appear in about a month’s time.

Better still, you can buy already rooted and sprouting dragon fruit seedlings from Richfarm Kenya (0724698357). They take 9 months to 1 year to start producing fruits.

Being in the cactus family, dragon fruit plants do not need a lot of water. They are best planted in sandy or loamy soils that are well drained.

After planting them, they will need very little attention other than the occasional application of manure and pruning.

They are less susceptible to pests and diseases so you won’t have the burden of spraying them regularly.

*2) High returns on investment*

Pitaya is among the most expensive fruits in Kenya at the moment with a kilo selling for between Ksh.800 and Ksh.1,200.

The farmers that are already harvesting in Kenya produce fruits that have between 400g and 1.2kg. The cuttings used in planting cost only Ksh.500 each.

So essentially, selling just 1 fruit will help you recoup the investment you put in buying planting materials.

The dragon fruit plants are vines that have a production period of up to 30 years. So you will need to support them with strong posts that can last as long.

Each vine can grow up to 30 feet long and give you 30 to 100 fruits per year upon maturity.

Now you can see what that means in terms of returns given the current prices.

The demand for these fruits is very high in Kenya especially among the Asian communities. In fact, anyone who has tasted this fruit likes it. The only limiting factor at the moment is the high price.

So if you have a high production capacity, you can reach a very wide market by reducing your prices and still make a kill.

Do not forget that the export market in China, the Middle East and Europe is also offering very high prices for dragon fruit. These markets would definitely prefer the high quality fruits grown in our hot tropical climate to the less tasty fruits from sub-tropical regions.

*3) They require a small space*

Dragon fruit vines are planted in groups supported by one post. On each post, you can plant 4 vines. The ideal spacing is 1m from one group to the next and 2m between the rows.

With this kind of spacing you can fit 1,000 dragon fruit plants on a plot 50 by 100. This is enough to help you realize a good economic return.

Since the vines do not have deep roots, some farmers even plant them on pots in their backyard gardens. This is an ideal way to grow dragon fruits for your own consumption even if you live in a rented house in which you only have a balcony.

*So how do I start a dragon fruit farm in Kenya?*

If you have a plot of land, anything from a 50 by 100 or bigger, you can easily start this kind of commercial farming.

Dragon fruits grow well in areas with temperatures of 15℃ and above. They also like full day sunshine, therefore ensure that you do not plant them under trees.

Have your land cleared and set up the support structures that will hold your plants. These structures are made with strong posts of about 5 feet and an old tyre mounted on each post.

Other farmers construct a square wooden structure on the poles. These are the structures over which the vines will hang.

Prepare the base area of each post to have fine soils. Mix the soil with manure: chicken manure is the best for growing Pitaya. Plant your seedlings here making sure not to cover too much of the stem to avoid rotting.

Use strings to train the vines onto the post. If the weather becomes too hot and dry, water your plants for faster growth.

Wait to start harvesting the precious fruit in about a year’s time.

Timothy Angwenyi
Business Consultant

Justine Nyachieo
Business Man & Mentor

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