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Is Capsicum Farming A Good, Low-cost Business Idea to Invest In

If you perform a simple Google search for the keyword “Capsicum Farming in Kenya” or “Pilipili hoho farming” I am sure you will come across dozens of articles hailing this agri-business as one of the best investments one can possibly make.

Some call it a low-cost, high yield investment. Others describe it as one of the few farming products with a ready market.

But just how true are these claims?

Is capsicum farming as profitable as they describe it in blogs; is it a good business idea for a small investor?

Here are the answers.

Capsicum is commonly known as pilipili hoho in Kenya and it’s farming is relatively easy given the great climate we enjoy here most of the year.

Capsicum farming is also a highly rewarding venture for both small-scale and large-scale farmers since pilipili hoho (also called sweet pepper) is a spice used by almost every household.

Due to the popularity of pilipili hoho, the market for this crop is ever ready. You can sell to the local mama mboga kiosk owners, all hotels, schools and hospitals and if you do not mind, the traders who come to buy right from the farm: those however give poor prices.

*Where to grow capsicum in Kenya*

Capsicum is a versatile crop that grows well in both warm and hot places. You can grow the crop under greenhouse or in the open field. In Kenya, capsicum is commonly grown in central and Eastern parts of the country such as Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga and parts of the coast.

It can also grow very well in Kajiado, Narok, the entire Ukambani region and in Baringo.

*Benefits of capsicum*

Capsicum is not only a food additive that spices up the taste of your meals. It is also a nutritious vegetable with numerous benefits to your body. These benefits include:

*A rich source of vitamin A, B16 and C

*Rich in antioxidants which helps your body to maintain good health

*Capsicum has anti-inflammatory properties

*Source of dietary fibre that helps in food digestion.

*Source of potassium which helps your body to regulate blood pressure.

*Ecological Requirements for capsicum farming*

*Climate:*

As we have said, capsicum grows well in warm areas. The ideal temperatures are between 15°C and 30°C. The crop does not tolerate frost so in areas where night temperatures fall too low, it is advisable to grow them under greenhouses.

The rainfall amounts should be in the range of 800 to 1200mm per annum, supplemented with irrigation during the dry seasons. The trick here is to ensure that the soils have moisture throughout the growth period.

*Soil:*

Capsicum grows best in fertile well drained soils. They prefer slight acidic soils of pH 5.5 to 6.5. As we have always advised, it is very important to test your soils to determine which nutrients you need to replenish for the best harvest.

*Best Capsicum Varieties to Grow in Kenya*

There are many different varieties of capsicum grown in Kenya, but some of the best include California Wonder, Green Bell, and Admiral.

California Wonder is a red variety, classic and high in production. It has a large, thick-walled fruits that starts out with a bright green colour and turns red when it is fully ripe.

Green Bell is a green capsicum variety that is sweet and juicy, perfect for salads and cooking. It yields big fruits and is the most common in the Kenyan markets.

Admiral is the signature yellow capsicum variety produced by Syngenta. While it is commonly grown in greenhouses, it can also be grown outdoors but farmers have reported lower yields for outdoor farms compared to greenhouse farming.

Green capsicum matures faster

*How to Grow Capsicum: Step-by-step guide*

*Choose an ideal location:* Capsicum plants need full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, to grow well. Hence the area should not be under trees or between tall buildings. It is also advisable not to plant on a spot that previously had other plants of the Solanaceae family.

*Prepare the soil:* Capsicum grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. You can improve the soil quality by adding compost or well-rotted manure to the planting area. Also take into consideration the recommendation of your soil test results to make the soils ideal for your crop. Make your farm into raised beds to loosen up the soil and create deeper rooting zones for the plants.

*Transplant seedlings:* Obtain professionally raised seedlings from Richfarm Kenya Nurseries (+254724698357 or +254723213602) and transplant them onto your prepared plot. The best spacing for capsicum is 60cm between the lines and 45cm from plant to plant. With this, you will have about 15,000 plants per acre.

*Water regularly:* Capsicum plants need consistent moisture to grow. You can check the moisture levels of the soil by holding it firmly in your palm: if it sticks, it is moist. However, don’t overwater the plats as they are susceptible to root rot. Water them deeply but infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out a bit between waterings.

*Fertilize:* Capsicum plants require balanced soil nutrients in order to grow fast and give good yields. Incorporating manure during the land preparation gives a huge advantage as it adds most of the needed nutrients. However, you can supplement that with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks. Your soil test results will advise you much better.

*Provide support:* Capsicum plants can grow quite tall and heavy with fruits, so they may need support, such as a stake or cage, to prevent them from breaking and falling over.

*Pinch off the tips:* Pinching off the tips of the capsicum plants will encourage branching and help the plant to produce more fruits.

*Harvest when the fruit is fully mature:* Capsicum is ready for harvest when the fruit has fully developed its colour and is firm to the touch. Cut the fruit from the plant with a sharp knife, leaving a small piece of stem attached.

Capsicum takes about 2-3 months to fully mature, from the time of transplanting the seedlings. However, the time the plants take to full maturity depends on the climate of your area and the variety. The green varieties mature faster than red and yellow.

*Pest and Disease Control*

*Pests*

Capsicum is vulnerable to common pests such as cutworms, red spider mites and aphids. Regular scouting to identify potential pest attacks is necessary. Most of these pests can be handled with common pesticides such as Profile and Pentagon from Greenlife Crop Protection.

For those going organic, use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control pests.

*Diseases*

The common diseases that affect capsicum are powdery mildew, damping off and anthracnose. These are all fungal diseases that can be easily controlled using fungicides.

I recommend Absolute and Greencop. You can also reduce the occurrence of diseases if you rotate crops annually, avoid overhead irrigation and practice good sanitation.

*Profitability of capsicum farming in Kenya*

Capsicum farming in Kenya is profitable and can potentially give you up to Ksh.1.2 million per acre in sales and almost 1 million in profit.

The cost of buying seedlings is the highest capital item, which can set you back up to Ksh.120,000 for seedlings enough for an acre.

The other costs include irrigation, fertilizers, pest and disease control and labor, which vary from place to place.

On average, the cost of setting up 1 acre of capsicum from land preparation to harvesting will cost you about Ksh.250,000.

An acre of capsicum yields between 25 and 30 tons of fruit and a kilo sells for between Ksh.40 and Ksh.60 at the farm gate: retailers such as Zucchini and Naivas Supermarkets sell a kilo for Ksh.200.

*Finally;*

Capsicum farming’s returns like in any other business depend on how well you manage the farm. A well managed open farm (1/8 acre) can produce Ksh.64,000 per season while a smaller greenhouse structure can produce Ksh.100,000 per season.

The secret to succeeding in this business lies in maximizing the available space. For instance, you can put two greenhouses on a 1/8 th acre plot and that will give you about Ksh.200,000 per season.

You can keep adding more greenhouses as your investment grows and as you seek to tap into crop rotation.

In short, the success or failure in this business depends on how big your dreams are. You can start small with an open farm and then scale up to greenhouse after the first one year. As with any other business, the secret is patience.

*Written By:* Timothy Angwenyi
Business Consultant
+254701711058

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